With climate change changing the face of the future, smart companies are counting carbon emissions as one does credit card receipts.

Climate change is the increasing instability of our weather patterns, and questionable quality and availability of fresh drinking water, air, soil, and food due to human activity (like urbanisation, consumption, and pollution). Put simply, it’s the heating of the planet from burning fossil fuels (oil, diesel, and petrol) for energy. If you think ‘it won’t affect me,’ remember that even if you live inland where rising sea levels can’t lap at your feet, you are dependent on a global economy, where goods (and increasingly services[1]) are traded internationally. No country is completely independent; we are all in this together. And it’s not only countries taking the lead as change-makers. It’s companies, too.

Companies that want to remain robust as the oceans warm and the weather goes wild know they have an ecological imperative to protect the earth that provides it with the resources to run in the first place. Especially ones that create machines that contribute hugely to global warming.

“The transportation sector generates the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions,” says the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of America. In the USA, in 2017, that amounted to 29% of the county’s annual global carbon emissions[2]. But that’s not all. The industry is responsible for 22% of the carbon output, and electricity consumption for 28% of it. A company producing cars, therefore, is directly involved in up to 79% of annual carbon emissions. Eina!

The good news is that reducing environmental impact can be measured as well, and a company’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and global warming can be mitigated.

Merc owner Daimler AG is driving this message home with a new announcement.

The German multinational says that all their passenger vehicles are to be carbon neutral by 2039. Carbon neutral means that running one will not add to greenhouse gas emissions. But petrol and diesel create these, and that’s what cars run on, so what are they planning?

EV, of course. Electric Vehicles (EVs) are cars you can charge. They don’t use a combustion engine to run, which means they don’t belch carbon from burning diesel or petrol. If the charge station uses renewable energy (like solar, which turns sunlight into power) then the EV is running on carbon-neutral power.

By 2030, the automotive corporation says that more than half the cars it sells will be electric. It also has plans for zero-emission trucks, bakkies and buses. Does that make you emotional? We think it’s inspirational, from a business point of view. It’s a sign of the times when a company also uses carbon reduction to compete with others.

If Daimler can deliver on its claims, it will be taking the lead in the fight against climate change.

“The announcement marks the most aggressive timeline any carmaker has yet set to slash its emissions,” Wired mag points out, which is “11 years ahead of Volkswagen Group, which vowed in March to launch 70 new electric vehicles by 2028 and become fully carbon neutral by 2050.”[3]

“To us the Paris Agreement is more than an obligation — it’s a conviction,” Daimler said in a press release. “And we have set a clear course to help prevent climate change.” The Paris Agreement, states the United Nations, “brings all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects, with enhanced support to assist developing countries to do so.”

It isn’t just about the fuel its cars are using, though. It’s about the resources and energy it takes to produce those cars. Daimler AG plans to use wind power to run the production lines for the vehicle and the batteries that power it and asserts that it will run all its European Union factories on renewable power by 2022.

That’s quite something, and it’s soon. But according to scientific projections for the Paris Agreement, it’s not enough. And yet they’re doing more than any other automotive company at present and if the other automotive companies started toeing the line too, we might come in sight of the finish line that keeps the planet from warming more than 1,5 degrees, which is a limit set by the Paris Agreement.

Kudos to the company putting the ‘Benz’ into a road leading straight to climate disaster and slowing it with every cent they spend. If it inspires the rest of the motor manufacturing industry to put environmental responsibility into first gear, it’s a double win. Remember that every purchase decision you make has the power to protect (or destroy) the planet we depend on, so vote with your Rands and your brands.


[1] https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/globalization

[2] https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions

[3] https://www.wired.com/story/daimler-plans-to-make-its-cars-carbon-neutral-by-2039/