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Governors Urge Biden To Order 100% Zero-Emission Car Sales By 2035

Electric vehicles at a charging station last year in San Mateo, Calif. The governors of 12 states, including California, have called on President Biden to order that all cars and light trucks sold in the U.S. after 2035 be zero-emission vehicles.
David Paul Morris
Bloomberg via Getty Images
Electric vehicles at a charging station last year in San Mateo, Calif. The governors of 12 states, including California, have called on President Biden to order that all cars and light trucks sold in the U.S. after 2035 be zero-emission vehicles.

Governors from a dozen states are asking President Biden to ban the sale of cars and light trucks that emit greenhouse gases by 2035.

In a letter to the president, the governors of California, New York, North Carolina and nine other states — all but one a Democrat — asked for the change ahead of a White House climate summit, scheduled to begin Thursday.

"By establishing a clear regulatory path to ensuring that all vehicles sold in the United States are zero-emission, we can finally clear the air and create high-road jobs," the governors wrote in the letter.

"Moving quickly towards a zero-emission transportation future will protect the health of all communities," they added.

Between now and the target date, the governors called for "significant milestones along the way to monitor progress."

The other signatories were Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, the lone Republican, and the governors of Connecticut, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, Rhode Island and Hawaii.

The 12 governors also called on the Biden administration to set standards and adopt incentives to ensure 100% zero-emission sales of medium-duty and heavy-duty vehicles by 2045.

While the letter urges a transition to entirely zero-emission vehicles by that date, it does not specifically call for the elimination of gasoline-powered vehicles.

The 2035 goal matches one already adopted by California. The other states whose governors signed have ambitious goals to increase zero-emissions vehicles, such as electric vehicles, and/or invest heavily in such technology in the coming years.

The letter follows similar appeals in March from 71 House lawmakers and 10 senators, all Democrats, urging Biden to reinstate Obama-era vehicle emissions standards through 2025 and do more to move the U.S. in the direction of electric vehicles. They urged the president "to set a date by which new sales of fossil fuel vehicles will end entirely."

In 2020, electric vehicles made up less than 2% of the U.S. car and light-truck market, according to IHS Markit, but the research firm expects that figure to surpass 3.5% nationally in 2021.

The United Auto Workers, in a letter to the White House in March, urged caution, saying any plan to increase zero-emission vehicles should take "the present market realities into consideration," according to Reuters.

"Neither the current trajectory of consumer adoption of EVs, nor existing levels of federal support for supply- and demand-side policies, is sufficient to meet our goal of a net-zero carbon transportation future," it said.

Last month, Biden invited the leaders of 40 countries to participate in a virtual White House summit to "underscore the urgency — and the economic benefits — of stronger climate action."

As part of the meeting, the administration is expected to promise to reduce U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions sharply, help poorer countries pay for the costs of climate change and encourage the rest of the world to announce new, bolder climate goals.

The summit, set to run Thursday and Friday, is part of Biden's effort to reverse course from the Trump administration, which withdrew from the Paris climate accord and sought to weaken auto emissions standards and generally roll back environmental regulations.

Biden has pledged to restore much of what Trump undid. Among other steps since taking office, he has had the U.S. rejoin the Paris Agreement.

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

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.

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