Remarks by Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. Sharon Hudson-Dean at the Nordic EV Summit, November 11, 2021
It’s a pleasure to take part in this year’s Nordic EV Summit.
When my staff told me about the opportunity to speak here, my first question was, “Is Will Ferrell going to be there?” GM’s advertisement campaign with the well-known comedian introduced Norway’s EV success to millions of Americans. And when I arrived in Norway three months ago, I got to see firsthand how many EVs are on the road. This is a testament to Norway’s policy incentives and public-private collaboration to develop the necessary infrastructure.
A Decisive Decade for Climate Action
This conference could not come at a more critical time. As residents of planet Earth, we are all facing the most important challenge of our lifetime. Already we are experiencing the devastating impacts climate change has on everyday life. This includes food and water insecurity affecting millions of people, sea level rise that impacts infrastructure and entire communities. This crisis is exacerbating inequalities and threatening economic security. We’ve already reached a point where we cannot reverse some of these changes to our climate system.
Before coming to Norway around three months ago, I served as the U.S. Consul General in Sydney. For many years, Australia and the United States have suffered from horrible wildfires. Our countries supported each other with firefighters, as the season for wildfires in the United States and Australia were different. However, in recent years, the wildfire season in both countries has expanded to cover more months, making this type of cooperation difficult. Climate change is impacting us in so many ways.
This is the decisive decade for political, business, and civic leaders to take action to stem global warming. We must start on a realistic path to reach the goal of cutting global emissions by 45 percent by 2030. And we are running out of time.
Key COP 26 Achievements
In Glasgow, world leaders came together over recent days to take action. The U.S. goal was to raise the ambitions of country commitments, to stay within the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
And there were many important steps taken in Glasgow. I’d like to highlight two that were driven by strong U.S. and European collaboration.
First, more than 100 nations – including Norway – joined the Global Methane Pledge, an initiative introduced by the United States and the European Union. This pledge commits to reducing global methane emissions by at least 30 percent by 2030. Methane is a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide. Achieving the pledge would prevent over 200,000 premature deaths, 20 million tons of crop loss, and hundreds of thousands of asthma-related emergency room visits every year.
Second, U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry partnered with the World Economic Forum to launch the First Movers Coalition. The coalition represents economic sectors that make up 30 percent of global emissions. This includes steel, aluminum, concrete, and shipping – industries that are important for vehicle manufacturers and many other businesses.
The Coalition partners commit to buying low-carbon products to help develop and scale green supply chains. The massive purchasing power of these companies will play an important role in developing more climate friendly markets. It was no surprise to me that Nordic companies, like Yara, Aker ASA, Scania, and Ørsted were among the first to join this coalition.
Ambitious targets are a key part of the equation. We also need concrete implementation plans to decarbonize our economies. This effort must include scaling up the clean technology solutions that are already available today, like solar and wind. But current technology won’t get us to the finish line. That’s why we also need to invest in research and development for the technologies of tomorrow.
U.S. Actions: multilateral leadership, policy incentives, purchasing power
Let me touch briefly on some specific steps the U.S. Government is taking to address this challenge.
The United States rejoined the Paris agreement on President Biden’s first day in office. That shows how seriously we take this crisis, and how committed our president is to multilateral cooperation to tackle the climate challenge.
President Biden also pledged to reduce U.S. emissions in line with the 1.5 degree target. To achieve this target, he has outlined the most ambitious climate agenda in U.S. history. Our plans include a carbon-free power system by 2035, and a quadrupling in funding for clean-technology research and development.
The transportation sector emits more carbon pollution than any other sector of the U.S. economy. It accounts for nearly 30 percent of total emissions. If we are going to tackle the climate crisis, we must focus on pollution reduction in transport.
The U.S. goal is for zero-emission vehicles to make up half of total vehicle sales in America by 2030. This may not seem like a high target compared to Norway, which aims to have 100% of new cars be EVs by 2025. But this is a very big deal for the United States. Last year there were 15 and a half million new cars sold in the U.S., compared to 141 thousand in Norway. Reaching this goal requires partnership with industry, financing for R&D, and significant improvements to transport infrastructure.
Just last week, the U.S. Secretary of Energy announced 200 million dollars of funding to projects that will put cleaner cars and trucks on U.S. roads and that will strengthen our Electric Vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure. This includes the Super Truck 3 initiative to power heavy duty trucks with electric batteries and hydrogen fuel cells, instead of with fossil fuels. It also includes funding to develop EV charging stations in disadvantaged communities.
This funding is just a small portion of planned transport infrastructure financing. Just a few days ago, our Congress passed a bipartisan Infrastructure deal. This bill authorizes the largest investment in public transit in U.S. history. It will replace thousands of old busses with clean, zero emission vehicles.
And of most interest to this Summit audience, the U.S. infrastructure deal includes 7.5 billion dollars investment to build the first-ever national EV charging network. This will be implemented in two parts: along highway corridors to facilitate long-distance travel, and within communities to provide convenient charging where people live, work, and shop. This is a critical step in President Biden’s strategy to fight the climate crisis, and it will also create good manufacturing jobs.
As Norway’s experience has shown, governments’ purchasing power can play an important role in catalyzing and providing an early market for new technology. The U.S. government is leading by example with its buying power. The President plans to replace the U.S. government’s fleet of nearly 650,000 vehicles with electric models.
U.S. Private Sector Leading the Way in Innovative Solutions
The U.S. federal government may be catching up, but our private sector has long been a leader in driving innovative solutions to market. The innovation we need to protect our environment and our livelihood presents an historic economic opportunity.
In the car manufacturing industry, this includes both established companies, and new players. I don’t think anyone would have guessed 10 years ago that the world’s most valuable automaker would be one that sells only electric vehicles. But U.S. company Tesla has done it. And Norway was a key part of Tesla’s success, providing the company’s largest export market for many years.
More traditional U.S. manufacturers are also announcing ambitious plans to enter the EV market. GM has committed to investing 35 billion dollars to develop new electric vehicles by 2025. Ford is electrifying some of its most iconic models, including the F-150 truck and the Mustang Mach E, which is among the top five most sold cars in Norway this year. Rivian is another example. It’s IPO yesterday was the largest this year, and the company was valued at over $100 billion. We know Norwegians are looking forward to welcoming Rivian’s all-electric truck and SUV to this market. Even Harley Davidson is moving into the EV space and launching electric motorcycles.
No Country Can Do This Alone
GM’s Will Ferrell advertisement joked about the United States beating Norway in an EV competition. But all joking aside, this climate challenge requires us to work together. No single country or region can solve the problem alone. And no government can achieve its ambitions without cooperating with the private sector, and with civil society.
I’m proud to say that cooperation on green technology has been one of the cornerstones of the bilateral relationship between Norway and the United States for some time. Since 2004, our Energy ministries have cooperated on research and development for carbon capture technologies. U.S. companies have tested their innovations at a world-class Norwegian facility outside of Bergen. And we are expanding cooperation in R&D for hydropower and offshore energy activities.
On the transport side, Norway, Denmark, and the United States are taking the lead on a Zero Emission Shipping initiative within the Mission Innovation partnership. This is a global initiative to catalyze investment in clean energy solutions. The goal of this Zero Emission Shipping initiative is to accelerate public private collaboration to scale new green maritime solutions. International shipping represents 2-to-3 percent of the world’s annual emissions, so progress on this front will make a difference in meeting our Paris Agreement goals.
To achieve this, we must take a fresh new look at maritime transportation. Here is just one example: Our U.S. Commercial Service has a close dialogue with Massachusetts-based Regent. This innovative American company is worth a closer look. If you think the Seaglider sounds like a regular airplane, think again. This is an all-electric, passenger-carrying, zero-emission transport vehicle developed to service coastal routes. The company is already funded, and its leadership is looking for partners in Europe. Why shouldn’t this be in the Nordics? Our team is assisting the company connecting with potential partners and stakeholders. If you have questions or bright ideas, please let our team know.
Thank you for the opportunity to share some of the work the United States is doing to tackle the climate crisis in general, and to promote greater electrification of transportation specifically. I welcome the chance to learn about other countries’ efforts to advance EV technology and markets. We need to work together to address this climate challenge.