California has rebuffed strong opposition from industry to adopted a landmark rule that will require more than half of all trucks sold in the US state to be zero-emissions by 2035, a move that is expected to improve local air quality, rein in greenhouse gas emissions and sharply curtail the state’s dependence on oil.
The rule, the first in the United States, represents a victory for communities that have long suffered from truck emissions — particularly pollution from the diesel trucks that feed the sprawling hubs that serve the state’s booming e-commerce industry. On one freeway in the Inland Empire region of Southern California, near the nation’s largest concentration of Amazon warehouses, a community group recently counted almost 1,200 delivery trucks passing in one hour.
Oil companies, together with farming and other industries, opposed the measure, calling it unrealistic, expensive and an example of regulatory overreach.
Truck and engine manufacturers also opposed the rule, and began a last-ditch effort in March to delay it, saying companies were already suffering from the effects of the Covid-19 crisis.
However California, which two years ago set an ambitious target of reducing emissions of greenhouse gases by 40 per cent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, held firm. The state’s clean air regulator, the California Air Resources Board, voted unanimously in favour of the rule at a meeting on Thursday.
“This is exactly the right time for this rule,” Mary Nichols, the board’s chairwoman, said in an interview. “We certainly know that the economy is in a rough shape right now, and there aren’t a lot of new vehicle sales of any kind. But when they are able to buy vehicles again, we think it’s important that they be investing in the cleanest kinds of vehicles.”
California’s new regulations put the state squarely at the forefront of U.S. climate policy, in diametrical opposition to the Trump administration, which has prioritised rolling back a slew of environmental regulations .
The state has already led a regulatory revolt against Washington over the Trump administration’s rollback of emissions standards for cars and light trucks , vowing to stick to more stringent requirements and taking the matter to court. California previously committed to buying only electric public transit buses by 2029, and to turn the entire bus fleet electric by 2040.
The new rule, which sets sales requirements for zero-emissions, electric versions of everything from big rigs to box trucks and delivery vans starting in 2024, has clear benefits. Under the rule, the percentage of electric trucks that must be sold would gradually increase each year, with an eventual goal that 100 percent of trucks be electric by 2045, from near zero today.