Detroit Automakers Must Navigate Tension Between Trump and Paris

President Donald Trump defended his decision to abandon the Paris Climate Accord as an effort to put America first, but as Mark Phelan’s column in the Detroit Free Press argues, US automakers should, and likely will, abide by the landmark agreement. While Detroit may want the freedom to produce whatever types of cars they want, the world is phasing out gas powered cars, and automakers will need to keep up to compete internationally.

Luckily, Ford and GM have both reaffirmed their commitments to sustainability and electrification. In respective statements, Ford said it is “deeply committed” to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and referenced its investments in 13 new electrified models, while GM said that they “remain committed to creating a better environment.” This is good news because it means US automakers are keeping pace with the rest of the world.

Foreign markets are quickly doing away with gas and diesel cars entirely. Britain recently announced plans to ban the sale of gas and diesel cars by 2040, as has France, with India considering plans for a ban by 2030 and Norway by 2025. If this trend keeps up, it will be impossible for automakers to compete globally without a focus on electrification and sustainability, as even bigger markets like China encourage EV sales to fight smog in major cities. Automakers need to plan for fuel standards, even if they aren’t enforced domestically.

While Trump says that disavowing environmental regulations will be good for Detroit, what Detroit will need to stay competitive globally is government support for increased innovation. Government strategies such as tax credits for the purchase of EV’s, funding for increased EV charging infrastructure, and R&D support for advanced battery and mobility technologies are all critical to maintaining a U.S. and Michigan leadership position in this constantly evolving sector.

No matter what we hear from Washington, it is important that automakers keep pushing forward to meet the global demand for electrification and advanced mobility, and that they advocate for innovation-forcing policies and increased awareness here at home. That’s the future.