December 10 at COP25: Decarbonizing Transportation

A&WMA delegate Jack Broadbent visited several country exhibits on Tuesday at COP25 in Madrid, and reports on the Decarbonizing Transportation presentation given at the US Climate Exhibit.

10 December 2019
Reported by: Jack Broadbent, CEO and Air Pollution Control Officer, Bay Area Air Quality Management District
Today, I visited several country exhibits, meeting with their representatives to try and understand their country's efforts in meeting their NDC obligations.  I visited the Spanish, Indonesian, Chinese, Italian, Turkish, Indian, Japanese, UK, Qatar, French and other exhibits, and listened to their presentations.  Keep in mind, nearly every country is represented at COP.  


Overall, the presentations focused on renewable energy projects or efforts to address sea level rise.  It may be my own bias, but I found some of the most interesting presentations (or at least ones most relevant to US efforts) at the US Climate Exhibit.  In particular, there were many presentations by subnational organizations (states primarily) that were part of the “We're Still In” initiative.  One in particular, summarized below, was focused on decarbonizing the transportation sector.
Decarbonizing Transportation: Business Challenges and Opportunities
This session combined presentations with a robust discussion from business leaders in the transportation electrification space.  The session was organized by the Climate Action Reserve and Registry, as well as the Climate Works Foundation.  Specifically, the speakers included Cathy Woolums, Chief Sustainability Officer for Berkshire Hathaway, Andres Klugechield, from BMW, and Catherine Choi, from So Cal Edison.
Ms. Woolums spoke of her own experience with EVs and (based on this experience) is a strong proponent of a national fast charging network to serve the imperative EV market, as is needed to meet US climate goals.  When asked about when EVs will be cost competitive with their gasoline competitors, Mr. Klugechield stated that most countries do not currently have sufficient EV infrastructure in place to enable a more robust EV market.  Furthermore, he noted that battery costs are going down, which will further allow battery electric vehicles to compete with gasoline vehicles.  In the meantime, plug-in hybrids will be a viable option for the future.  Ms. Choi concurred with this assessment and pointed out that air quality in California is another driver of the EV marketplace. 
All of the panelists agreed that, in the US, continued investment in EV infrastructure is critical, and the total ownership cost of EVs will also eventually drive the EV market.  All of the panelists also pointed out policies that are harmful to further developing the EV market.  Specifically, several states have enacted annual registration fees on EVs since they are no longer paying gasoline taxes to help maintain roads. 
For the future, all the panelists agreed that battery costs are going down and battery technology is allowing the newest batteries in EVs to be denser and hold more charge.  This will allow EVs to go longer and reduce range anxiety.  Also, the technology for making batteries is relying less on rare earth compounds, which will reduce US manufacturers' reliance on imports from China and others for battery manufacturing.  The panel did conclude that EVs represent a viable option for the US and others to meet their NDC commitments.   


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