Sheila Watson, Director of Environment at FIA Foundation

SLoCaT: Can you briefly describe the commitment that is being announced at the Climate Summit on September 23, 2014?

Governments joining the Global Fuel Economy Initiative under this accelerator are committing to develop national fuel economy policies. For the Climate Summit, ten of the 40 countries involved have expanded their commitments. Achieving the GFEI target, of doubling by 2030 the efficiency of all new vehicles and by 2050 the complete global vehicle fleet, would save over 1 Gt of CO2 a year by 2025 and over 2 Gt/yr by 2050, and result in savings in annual oil import bills alone worth over USD 300 billion in 2025 and USD 600 billion in 2050.

SLoCaT: What motivated your organisation and partner organizations to develop the commitment for the SG’s Climate Summit?

The GFEI Accelerator – a group of countries working with key companies in the sector, explicitly committing to the GFEI targets at this Summit – will send a powerful message and set in motion a trend toward the global doubling of fuel economy which is entirely achievable. The Accelerator process is creating the conditions for the commitment of countries and other key stakeholders, resources and political will which we need to ensure the pace of change we need now.

SLoCaT: What will be the impact of the sg’s personal engagement in climate change for your specific commitment? 

We believe this UN Accelerator process has been invaluable in providing the political impetus which we need to take our work to another level. We were able to brief the Secretary General personally on our work, and his commitment to the issues was evident and has been crucial in giving the process credibility with stakeholders.

SLoCaT: Where is your personal inspiration coming from in the work you do on transport and climate change?

Reliable predictions suggest that there will be at least 1.5 perhaps even 2 billion additional cars by 2050, 90% of them will be driven in emerging economies, and a substantial proportion still using oil-based fuels, at least in part.

The impact of such massive increases in vehicle numbers and the resultant increased energy demand is wholly unsustainable. Unsustainable in terms of congestion, pollution and health; in terms of energy supply and therefore energy security; in terms of the costs to individuals and countries as resources become increasingly scarce; and of course in terms of CO2 and the climate.

Improved efficiency is in integral to sustainable development. Wasting resources is environmentally and economically inefficient and it impacts on the poorest most, so it is also a matter of equity. I am motivated to do what I can to help to address this.

SLoCaT: How do you plan to follow up on the commitment?

We are building our work with countries and other stakeholders constantly. After we were showcased in the Abu Dhabi Ascent, we began a partnership with the French Government, and co-hosted a GFEI Accelerator Symposium on Sept 5th in Paris in partnership with them. The event was attended by high level representatives of over 70 key countries, corporations, international funding organisations, and civil society groups. As a result, new partners – countries, corporates and funders have begun to join us in our GFEI Accelerator commitment, whilst some existing partners are working with us to step up their work. We will continue to build awareness of and commitment to fuel economy through the COPs in Peru and in France. We will also continue our work through the G20 and Post 2015 process, where fuel efficiency is gaining political attention also.

SLoCAT: Anything else that you would like to share on your commitment?

Just to say ‘come join us’. Because these are such readily available and effective fuel economy technologies already available, where fuel economy policies are in place – in the main in OECD countries – the efficiency of vehicles is improving at an unprecedented rate of almost 3% per year. That can make people think that the job is done. 

But, in other markets, where those policies are not in place, the technologies are not going into the cars, and fuel economy is not improving at all. So, the job is far from done. We have many new countries and others with whom we have begun to engage because of this Accelerator process, but we want to do more. So attend the Energy session of the Climate Summit on September 23rd, and join us in our work, so that we can work together to secure the huge gains in energy security, in resources, in pollution and in CO2 which will result from an improvement in the fuel economy of the global fleet.