The US announced a rollback of the vehicle emissions standards on Tuesday, a key policy in the fight against climate change.
Adopted under former President Barack Obama, the standards aimed to decrease overall carbon dioxide emissions from the transportation sector, which is responsible for producing the largest amount of greenhouse gases in the country.
Greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere, causing the planet and the world’s oceans to warm, potentially resulting in floods, droughts, and extreme temperatures.
The fuel efficiency standards put pressure on auto manufacturers to create electric and fuel-efficient cars and improve overall mileage, requiring automakers to increase their average fuel economy of new vehicles to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.
Now, the Environmental Protection Agency has implemented a new rule in its place, weakening auto emissions standards.
The Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule will only require automakers to average around 40 miles per gallon and increase carbon dioxide emissions standards for automakers by 1.5% per year through 2026, compared to the annual 5% increase under the previous policy.
It also lifts the requirement that automakers invest in producing hybrid or electric vehicles.
The new rule will lead to the release of nearly 1 billion more tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and cause car owners to purchase an additional 80 billion gallons of gasoline.
An influx of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can result in increased temperatures, rising sea levels, and other natural disasters.
Also, the policy will implement another rule issued in 2019, revoking the rights of states to set their vehicle emissions.
In contrast, the vehicle emissions standards reduced carbon emissions by half a billion metric tons and helped consumers save $86 billion in gasoline, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
"Gutting the clean car standards makes no sense. It will harm the air we breathe, stall progress in fighting the climate crisis and increase the cost of driving," NRDC President Gina McCarthy said in a statement.