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General Motors Aims To Be Carbon Neutral By 2040

General Motors Chairman and CEO Mary Barra speaks in Detroit, Mich., 2019. GM has joined the Science Based Targets initiative to better reduce its  carbon footprint.
Bill Pugliano
Getty Images
General Motors Chairman and CEO Mary Barra speaks in Detroit, Mich., 2019. GM has joined the Science Based Targets initiative to better reduce its carbon footprint.

Automaker General Motors has announcedaspirations of achieving carbon neutrality by 2040. On the way to that goal, the company hopes to eliminate tailpipe emissions by 2035.

GM said Thursday it will take a science-based approach to become carbon neutral, balancing carbon dioxide emissions and removal efforts. Furthermore, it plans to eliminate gas-powered, light-duty vehicle production by 2035, it said. It intends that by 2025, 40% of its vehicles will be battery powered.

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

Transportation is the largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, just over 28%, the Environmental Protection Agency reported. Which is why GM and other industry leaders have joined the Science Based Targets initiative, which calls on businesses to take action to combat climate change.

Sam Abuelsamid, principal research analyst at Guidehouse Insights, said initiative participants cannot make empty promises. Their results will be independently verified to hold them accountable. Carbon emissions in vehicles and factories are easily measured.

"They're no longer saying that it's not really a problem," he said. "Companies across the spectrum are making changes because they know that in the long term if they don't make changes, if all of society doesn't make changes, it will have negative effects on their business."

A clear step for GM to become carbon neutral is to transition from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles. Traditional gas vehicles make up about 75% of GM's greenhouse emissions, the company said. Their production facilities make up the other 25%, which the manufacturer aims to eliminate by using wind and solar energy. GM said it will power its U.S. sites with 100% renewable energy by 2030 and globally by 2035. It's a tall order, Abuelsamid admitted, but it's possible.

GM said it is working with EVgo vehicle charging stations to add "more than 2,700 new fast chargers by the end of 2025 ... powered by 100 percent renewable energy."

The bigger obstacle falls on the consumer. An electric vehicle is significantly more expensive. The Natural Resources Defense Council says the average electric car costs $19,000 more than a gasoline-powered car. But GM has spent years improving its battery technology, which may be why it is confident it can eliminate tailpipe emissions in the next 14 years.

'To do that and be successful they will have to make [electric cars] prices competitive," Abuelsamid said. "GM is confidant they can do that, they think they have the technology to do that. But we will have to see."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Dustin Jones is a reporter for NPR's digital news desk. He mainly covers breaking news, but enjoys working on long-form narrative pieces.