Heavy traffic on Interstate 5
Heavy traffic on Interstate 5 in North County. Courtesy SANDAG

In an end run around the Trump administration’s rollback of emission standards, California announced a deal Thursday with four major automakers to voluntarily reduce pollution from cars and light-duty trucks.

California said the agreement with Ford, Honda, BMW and Volkswagen supports continued annual reductions in greenhouse gas emissions through the 2026 model year and accelerates the transition to electric vehicles. However, it gives automakers one more year to comply than under the previous Obama administration rules.

In connection with the reduction in emissions, the four automakers, which account for nearly a third of vehicles sold in the United States, also voluntarily committed to achieve an average mileage of 50 mpg, up from 37 mpg in 2020.

“Few issues are more pressing than climate change, a global threat that endangers our lives and livelihoods. California, a coalition of states, and these automakers are leading the way on smart policies that make the air cleaner and safer for us all,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom in announcing the agreement.

Newsom called on other automakers and the Trump administration to join what he called a “pragmatic compromise.”

The Trump administration is preparing to freeze emissions standards at the 2020 level, arguing that further reductions are expensive, unsafe and unnecessary.

The rollback has faced growing opposition from automakers, who want to keep a single national standard and avoid the uncertainty of changing regulations. California, which is the nation’s largest auto market by far, has authority under the federal Clean Air Act to establish separate emissions rules and automakers were concerned about having to built two types of vehicles.

The four automakers issued a statement saying, “These terms will provide our companies much-needed regulatory certainty by allowing us to meet both federal and state requirements with a single national fleet, avoiding a patchwork of regulations while continuing to ensure meaningful greenhouse gas emissions reductions.”

Vehicle emissions in California are responsible for nearly 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and more than 40 percent of smog-forming pollution. According to the governor’s office, some 32 million Californians breathe ozone or particle polluted air at some point each year.

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.