Earth Day 2024: each day is about reducing emissions | Autocar Professional

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Today – April 22 – is Earth Day 2024 and the 54th anniversary of Earth Day. Earth Day is now a global event each year, and over a billion people across 192 countries now take part in what is the largest civic-focused day of action in the world. It is a day of political action and civic participation. People march, sign petitions, meet with their elected officials, plant trees, clean up their towns and roads. Corporations and governments use it to make pledges and announce sustainability measures. Faith leaders connect Earth Day with protecting the human race, biodiversity and the planet that we all live on. And the automotive industry too is doing its bit to ensure green motoring. 

Earth Day also marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. That year was the height of counterculture in the United States, it witnessed the death of Jimi Hendrix, the last Beatles album, and Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’. War raged in Vietnam and students across the US overwhelmingly opposed it.

At the time, Americans were slurping leaded fuel through massive V8 sedans. Industry belched out smoke and sludge with little fear of legal consequences or bad press. Air pollution was commonly accepted as the smell of prosperity. ‘Environment’ was a word that appeared more often in spelling contests than on the evening news.

Although mainstream America largely remained oblivious to environmental concerns, the stage had been set for change by the publication of Rachel Carson’s New York Times bestseller Silent Spring in 1962. The book represented a watershed moment, selling more than 500,000 copies in 24 countries, and beginning to raise public awareness and concern for living organisms, the environment and links between pollution and public health. Earth Day 1970 gave voice to that emerging consciousness, channelling the energy of the anti-war protest movement and putting environmental concerns on the front page.

Growing focus on eco-mobility, EVs and ESG
Cut to 2024 when countries, corporates and citizens are all seized of the urgency to enhance the green quotient in every sphere of life, including transportation. The shift to eco-friendly electric mobility is underway globally. 

In CY2023, global sales of electric vehicles (EVs) scaled a new high – over 13.6 million units which constituted around 16% of global car sales.

In India too, demand for EVs is accelerating. In CY2023, a record 15,26,433 or 1.52 million EVs were sold, up 49% YoY growth (CY2022: 10,25,118 units) and is reflective of the accelerating transition to eco-friendly, zero-emission transition in a country which is home to 20 of the world’s most polluted cities.

Seventy-two percent – 29,59,218 units – of the 3.95 million EVs sold in India in the past 11 years have come in just two fiscals (FY2024 and FY2023), indicating just how massive demand has been in the past 24 months.

In FY2024 (April 2023-March 2024), India EV Inc’s sales in India jumped 42% to 1.67 million units what with the demand for electric two- and three-wheelers as well as cars and SUVs hitting a new high.

There’s encouraging progress in alternate fuels like CNG and ethanol too. In CY2023, as as the government of India’s Vahan retail sales data, a total of 952,066 CNG-powered vehicles were sold, a 33% increase over CY2022’s 716,825 units. Last year also saw a total of 379,837 petrol-ethanol powered vehicles sold in India. Demand for petrol-hybrid models is on the upswing too – the 331,761 units sold in 2023 marked a 72% YoY increase over 2022’s 192,904 units.

As Shailesh Chandra, Tata Motors Passenger Vehicles and Tata Passenger Electric Mobility, said at Autocar Professional’s EV Conclave, ”The long-term story of BEVs is not a choice. It is an imperative because all the nations have signed for net carbon zero. The same pressure is on all the OEMs. There is no choice. It is only a matter of how fast this is going to happen.”

ESG or Environmental Social Governance is now a common acronym. EarthDay.org, the world’s largest recruiter to the environmental movement, working with more than 150,000 partners in over 192 countries to drive positive action for Planet Earth, writes: “Sustainability is the path to prosperity for humanity and businesses alike. Companies which have developed strong Environmental Social Governance (ESG) standards are seeing better profitability, stronger financial performance and happier employees. There is no longer a choice between going green and growing long-term profits. It is crucial for businesses of all sizes to act now. If they don’t, climate change will cause even more catastrophic damage to our economies and negatively impact us all.” 

‘Humanity is acting like Mother Earth’s delinquent child’ – UN Secretary-General
In his all-encompassing message on Earth Day 2024, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said: “We depend on nature for the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the water we drink. Yet, we have brought chaos to the natural world: poisoning our planet with pollution, wiping out species and ecosystems with abandon, and destabilising our climate with greenhouse gas emissions.

”These actions harm nature, and they harm humanity. We are imperilling food production, polluting our ocean and air, creating a more dangerous, less stable environment, and holding back sustainable development. Together, we must restore harmony with nature, embrace sustainable production and consumption, and protect ourselves from harm – creating jobs, reducing poverty and driving sustainable development as we do so. 

That means slamming the brakes on biodiversity loss, putting a stop to pollution, and slashing greenhouse gas emissions globally. It means supporting Indigenous Peoples, local communities, and others being hit hardest by the pollution, climate and biodiversity crises. It means delivering climate justice to countries on the frontline of climate chaos, and swiftly mobilising the finance and support countries need to act on climate, protect nature and promote sustainable development.

“Countries must produce new national climate plans that align with limiting the rise in global temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius. These can double as national transition plans and national investment plans, underpinning sustainable development for generations to come. And the G20 must lead a fast, fair and funded global phaseout of fossil fuels, and put a stop to nature-wrecking subsidies, such as those that underwrite runaway production of planet-choking plastics.

“Repairing relations with Mother Earth is the mother of all of humanity’s challenges. We must act – and act now – to create a better future for us all.”

S-t-r-e-t-c-h every litre of fuel or plug into EVs
The automotive and other industries are seized of the immensity of the environmental issue. Vehicle and component manufacturers are taking to new materials, technologies and processes to lightweight vehicles to s-t-r-e-t-c-h every litre of fuel to the maximum, motorists still tanking up on fossil fuel can also their bit to conserve petrol and diesel. Or shift gear to electrified vehicles. All in a bid to stave off pollution and save Planet Earth.

 The cost of fossil-fuelled motoring, is going only one way – up. While we can’t do anything about the price of fuel, there are ways to increase your car’s fuel economy and get the best kilometres per litre. Things like removing excess weight in the form of bulky items, keeping it well maintained and serviced regularly, advance planning of journeys, sticking to speed limits, using engine stop/start and going electric. 

Earth Day and every day is about achieving kaizen at sustainability, conservation and management of energy, resources and applying the Recycle, Reuse and Repurpose strategy.  It’s all about continuous and sustained investment in Planet Earth. 

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