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Toyota Seeks to Undercut Mexico's Action on Global Warming

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Mexican FlagThe foundation of international action to address global warming is built with the actions that countries take at home to reduce their global warming pollution.  Despite the ups and downs of international global warming negotiations we have seen some promising actions by key countries, including Mexico which recently passed a national climate law to deal with its global warming pollution. That action is being undercut by Toyota which has sued to block Mexico’s new standard to reduce the carbon pollution from cars sold in Mexico.

With record-breaking temperature being set around the world, extreme weather showing its ugly face, and the Arctic achieving historic low levels of ice we can’t afford this kind of action by Toyota. Sadly the headline reads: Mexico takes a historic step to address global warming and Toyota sues to undercut the law.

As my colleague pointed out, the company that brought you the Prius – that car that contributes a lot less to global warming than other cars – has been quietly working to undermine a multi-year effort to harmonize Mexico’s fuel economy standards with the U.S. standards.

Here’s the sad story (my colleague Rich Kassel and Roland Hwang both have posted more detail on this sad story).

Mexico takes historic step. In July, the Mexican government proposed a new standard that would significantly reduce the global warming pollution from new cars sold in Mexico. The Mexican standard would bring Mexico’s fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards for cars, pickup trucks and SUVs up to the levels of the 2012-2016 fuel economy standards in the U.S.  It would increase Mexico’s average fuel economy levels to 35 mpg (14.9 km/L) by 2016. (To see the proposed standard – “NOM-163” – in Spanish, click here.  For a summary of the proposal in English, see here).

The Mexican car standard would significantly reduce global warming pollution. Earlier this year, Mexican President Calderon signed into law the “Climate Bill” that was passed with overwhelming support from the Mexican Congress. This new law established a target to reduce Mexico’s global warming pollution 30 percent below business-as-usual emissions by 2020 and 50 percent below 2000 levels by 2050. One section of this law requires reductions in global warming pollution through the establishment of efficiency standards for new vehicles. The car standard is a direct response to the Mexican law.

With the Mexican transportation sector accounting for around one-quarter of the country’s global warming pollution, the standard will be an important strategy for helping the country achieve the emissions reduction target set out in the Climate Law. The standard would cut 170 million tons of greenhouse gases through 2030.

The new standard would be good for automakers and the public. Adopting this new Mexican standard would be good for automakers who want a consistent product line throughout the region. After all, no car company wants to have produce a car for the U.S. and a different one for the Mexican market as the two markets are closely intertwined. So that is why the Mexican government closely worked with automakers, environmentalist, and other key Mexican stakeholders to craft the new standard.

The Mexican program would save consumers in Mexico money on fuel costs as the new cars produced to meet the standard would consume much less gasoline per mile. The standard will save Mexican drivers an estimated $39 billion dollars (or 513 billion pesos). 

Toyota says nothing and then sues to stop Mexico’s action. Throughout the 60-day comment period no technical objections were raised to the proposal and Toyota never filed public comments to address their concerns. So we were shocked to learn that Toyota had filed a lawsuit to stop the proposal from even being considered. As a result, the Mexican government was notified that the court had issued an injunction against proceeding with finalizing the proposal. And now the standard to reduce global warming pollution sits in limbo. 

It is time for Toyota to back down and withdraw their lawsuit. This is the kind of action we expect of Big Oil and Big Coal, but we don’t expect “Big Green Car Company” to block action on global warming. 

It is time for Toyota to stop blocking Mexican action to address global warming. The Arctic is melting, storms are ravaging communities around the world, and people are suffering. One country’s climate action hinges on whether Toyota drops its lawsuit and allows President Calderon or in-coming President Peña to finalize this standard.

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Photo courtesy of: Adrian.Jelley under creative commons license.

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