Fuelling the debate

Avi Silverman, FIA Foundation

As the world moves towards a critical stage in the climate change negotiations – as well as the sustainable development agenda – in 2015, fuel efficiency will be a vital component of the policy debate.

At the centre of the discussions, and emerging as the world’s leading fuel economy initiative, is the Global Fuel Economy Initiative (GFEI) – a partnership of major international organisations and experts collaborating on the issue of vehicle fuel economy, which is coordinated by independent charity the FIA Foundation. During the UN Climate Summit in September, GFEI made its contribution to the range of commitments aimed at reducing emissions. And the GFEI is taking commitments on fuel economy onwards to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP20 meeting in Peru, and on to COP21 in Paris in 2015.

This work builds on progress made in all the major global policy fora. The recent G20 Summit in Brisbane prioritised action on vehicle fuel efficiency in its main Communiqué, and encouraged countries to work with the GFEI. It follows important work carried out through the UN’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative where the GFEI is key part of the Global Energy Efficiency Accelerator Platform. As such, the GFEI contributes to the process to advocate for the inclusion of sustainable energy in the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals.

The GFEI’s agenda is clear. Global transport fuel demand is projected to double from now to 2050. This is a serious challenge for the global economy, for public health and the environment. The GFEI global target includes a 50 per cent reduction in the average fuel consumption of all light-vehicles on the road in 2050. To achieve this, all new cars and vans must reach a similar target sooner – by 2030, so that with stock turnover, the 2050 target can be met. The GFEI has also set an interim Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) target of 30 per cent improvement in fuel economy by 2020.

The path to achieving fuel economy gains is well known. It does not need agreement to follow one particular approach, as there are a range of potential options – measures such as standards, labelling or fiscal incentives to name but a few. Instead, it is a case of identifying measures which are appropriate, and then working together with local partners on national policies and fuel economy initiatives. Countries, NGOs and the private sector are being brought together by the GFEI and linked to the global processes on climate change and sustainable energy.

Speaking at the UN Climate Summit in September 2014, the FIA Foundation Director General Saul Billingsley addressed the UN General Assembly on behalf of the GFEI. He said: “There will be at least 1.5, perhaps even 2 billion additional cars by 2050, with 90 per cent of the growth in emerging economies, and a substantial proportion still using oil-based fuels. Whilst increased personal mobility can bring substantial gains, the impact of such massive increases in vehicle numbers and the resultant increased energy demand is wholly unsustainable. Unsustainable in terms of congestion, pollution and health; in terms of energy supply and energy security; in terms of the costs to individuals and countries as resources become increasingly scarce; and of course in terms of CO2 and the climate – increasing global CO2 emissions by 2 gigatonnes per year by 2050, and making global efforts to reach climate change targets unachievable.”

Kandeh Yumkella, who has been appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to lead the global agenda on sustainable energy as CEO of Sustainable Energy for All, is a supporter of the GFEI.

“Throughout 2015, and going forward to the major global summits such as the International Climate Conference in Paris at the end of the year, we are sending a clear message of the opportunity and the possibilities. We will be working with the leading initiatives such as the GFEI, to shine a light, pointing to the steps that need to be taken. At the UN Climate Summit of 2014, the GFEI and FIA Foundation issued a strong rallying cry, emphasising that in many cases we have the technologies at our fingertips, what we need is the resources to support countries as they develop fuel economy policies, and the global policy framework to support those efforts… This has to be our future and together we will do everything in our power to achieve it”.