Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Obama Secures Impressive Agreement on Emissions Limits

"'This is a very big deal,' said Daniel Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign, who has pushed for tougher mileage and emissions standards for two decades with the goal of curbing the gases that have been linked to global warming. 'This is the single biggest step the American government has ever taken to cut greenhouse gas emissions.'"

This agreement, in truth, has been long overdue. The car industry realised some time ago that higher emissions standards were inevitable - although they still tried to block them where they could. Once they'd accepted that basic fact, the biggest concern was then the possibility of widely varied state standards. In short - if you design a car that complies beautifully with the California standard, but then release it in the same month that New York announces a new, higher standard that's not good for business. Fair enough.

So the negotiation position for all sides was actually pretty obvious - the industry accepts the California standard as a national standard. That way they know for sure what they're going to have to work towards. Meanwhile, California gets the higher standard it was looking for and brings the rest of the country along with it. Win win - and without disparaging the incredibly hard work and delicate negotiations that I'm sure went into this - also a pretty easy win.

You just need a politician who is prepared to take it.

Now, it's worth saying - this only gets us about halfway there. In addition to people driving better cars, ideally it would be great if they drove them less often. So I would love to see more done to encourage other forms of transport (hurray Supertrains! Yes I have a bit of a thing about this...) and to discourage driving.

But for now, this is a really good day's work. Well done all!

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