GM going carbon-neutral by 2040, lineup will be nearly zero-emissions by 2035

General Motors CEO Mary Barra promises every light-duty vehicle will produce zero emissions in 14 years.

Sean Szymkowski
It all started with Gran Turismo. From those early PlayStation days, Sean was drawn to anything with four wheels. Prior to joining the Roadshow team, he was a freelance contributor for Motor Authority, The Car Connection and Green Car Reports. As for what's in the garage, Sean owns a 2016 Chevrolet SS, and yes, it has Holden badges.
Sean Szymkowski
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Mary Barra
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Mary Barra

GM is getting mighty aggressive with its climate goals.

General Motors

announced Thursday its latest set of climate goals as it looks to wholeheartedly support a shift from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy. Among the proclamations GM CEO Mary Barra made, the automaker promised to transition 100% of its light-duty vehicles to zero-emission powertrains by 2035 and become a carbon-neutral automaker by 2040 -- 10 years ahead of schedule.

Barra said GM also signed onto the Business Ambition Pledge for 1.5 degrees Celsius. The pledge essentially serves as a call to action for others to keep global warming under that figure, in line with goals laid out in the Paris Climate Agreement, which the US rejoined in the first days of the Biden administration. GM just months ago turned its back on litigation aimed at striking down California's ability to set emissions and fuel economy standards, which the Trump administration served, and backed the Biden administration's goals for grander renewable energy plans in the country.

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

The automaker said it worked with the Environmental Defense Fund on these plans to ensure its electric vehicle future is an equitable one, with cars available across a range of prices. In other words, GM doesn't want to make EVs a $40,000-plus proposition. GM's massive shift in its approach to climate change will also see the automaker work with stakeholders and organizations like the EDF to create larger charging networks for EVs and educate car buyers on zero-emission vehicles. Dane Parker, GM's chief sustainability officer, added the automaker will be heavily involved in advocating for EVs, right down to dealership communications with customers.

Most of its work to achieve carbon-neutral status surrounds eliminating tailpipe emissions, which account for 75% of emissions associated with the company. By 2025, GM will have 30 electric vehicles on sale around the globe and said 40% of vehicles on sale in the US will arrive as full-blown EVs. The company also said it's upping an investment into EVs and autonomous cars by another $7 billion to $27 billion.

For the other part of its emissions, GM said it will power every single site it operates in the US with renewable energy by 2030. Five years after that, every global facility will run on clean energy, which reflect five-year accelerations for both goals, respectively. For areas it's simply not possible to cut emissions, or if technology doesn't exist to do so, GM promised to purchase carbon credits or invest in offsets. Barra reiterated, however, that the automaker's goal will always be to cut emissions directly, with offsets and credits as a backup plan. That includes its supply chain, as it works with suppliers to support clean energy production, especially when it come to electricity for charging its EVs.

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