General Motors plans to go carbon neutral by 2040

General Motors Carbon Emissions Santiago Gaughan/The Cougar

Santiago Gaughan/The Cougar

Not long after re-entering the Paris Climate Agreement under the Joe Biden administration, the nation’s largest automaker, General Motors, announced aspirations of going carbon neutral by 2040.  

General Motors reveals they will be investing $27 million into electric vehicles with the intention of offering a diverse range of 30 new models in upcoming years.  In doing so, the company plan to eliminate all tailpipe emissions from light-duty vehicles by 2035.

 Transportation was the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions at 28.2 percent in 2018, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Greenhouse gases are known to trap heat in the atmosphere through the greenhouse effect, ultimately inducing global warming.

GM is addressing the problem by joining the Science-Based Targets Initiative  to initiate corporate action against climate change by following the terms outlined in the Paris Climate Agreement.

With the company’s plan in action, they expect 40 percent of their U.S. models to be completely electric by the end of 2025.

In order to reach a state of carbon neutrality, the company must ensure they contribute equally to carbon absorption efforts and will likely take the form of carbon credits, according to UH energy economist Ed Hirs.

Although GM has announced their global sites will be powered with renewable energy by 2035, the manufacturing of raw materials must also be accounted for.

“In terms of manufacturing steel and aluminum, those materials will still be made in the same way,” said Hirs. For them to be carbon neutral means they will have to be buying carbon offsets somewhere because they’re an industrial manufacturer, and that requires a lot of petroleum.”

Another challenge GM is likely to face are inflexible consumers. Consumers are inelastic, meaning drastic price changes are often required to initiate changes in purchasing behavior, Hirs said. 

Hirs explains in order to incentivize consumers to begin purchasing electric vehicles, a carbon tax must be imposed.

“The imposition of a carbon tax at the port of entry for coal is necessary.  That way the cost gets passed down the entire chain to the consumer,” Hirs said.

GM executives are hopeful that this positive step forward could impact other industries to make similar advances. 

“General Motors is joining governments and companies around the globe working to establish a safer, greener and better world,” said GM chairman and CEO Mary Barra. “We encourage others to follow suit and make a significant impact on our industry and on the economy as a whole.”

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