10 May 2016

Could the Californian model be adopted on a global scale?


The Paris Agreement shows that governments the world over have both the willingness and the skills needed to set goals to dramatically reduce the negative impact of climate change. However, the goals are simply not attainable if no actual solutions are sought to accomplish them, and if there is no genuine determination to make the bold decisions required.

Being a major source of carbon dioxide emissions, the traffic sector has a crucial role to play in accomplishing the emissions reduction goal. The public sector, therefore, could lead the way in this regard.

Global public discourse related to alternative fuels has been hotly debated for some time now, but many countries have yet to take action. Grounds have mainly been found for explaining why renewable choices are not cost-effective, or why equipment development is too slow. That said, although some of the proposals have been good in theory, their implementation into concrete actions has proved to be another story.

One bright spot on the global map, however, is in the U.S. state of California. The City of San Francisco announced, in December 2015, that all of its vehicles running on fossil diesel would switch to the use of renewable diesel on a permanent basis. Consequently, the city successfully reduced the emissions caused by its diesel vehicles. It was not necessary to obtain any new vehicles, and no changes were required in fuel distribution.

Since then, many other cities have followed suit, with more planning to do so in the near future. The reason why is clear: the emissions reduction resulting from renewable diesel produced from waste and residues can be up to 90% in comparison to fossil diesel.

So... wake up, world! What kind of fuel are the machines cleaning your streets running on? What about your public transport? What about the vehicles that all your government officials and civil servants use? Shouldn’t other countries import the American courage to make the responsible decisions needed domestically?

The solution to reducing traffic emissions does not require that all vehicles are replaced with electric vehicles. Electric vehicles do offer considerable opportunities to move things in the right direction, but renewable diesel offers dramatic environmental benefits too, and crucially, can be introduced immediately. This would be a definitive step forward.

So, to all the progressive and ambitious cities and countries of the world, what do you say?

Kaisa Hietala, Neste
Kaisa Hietala
Executive Vice President, Renewable Products, Neste