The IKEA Foundation helps many organisations accelerate their efforts in combating climate change. Facts and figures speak for themselves, but who exactly are the people behind this extraordinary work? In this storytelling series ‘Changemakers for the future’, we spotlight brave individuals who move mountains in their climate action strategies and solutions. This time: Anthony Eggert, programme director at ClimateWorks Foundation
My grandfather worked in the automotive industry. Even at seven years old, I had conversations with him about the value of providing people with mobility while also recognising its very high societal cost: pollution. Now we know that the industry is a significant contributor to climate change. My grandfather and I would talk about all the potential solutions, which ultimately inspired me to become a mechanical engineer.
My career began at Ford Motor Company, working on vehicle design and regulatory compliance, specificallytrying to improve on emissions and fuel economy. That was a great place to be, though I realised the industry is often subject to competing forces, including the need to satisfy consumers and shareholders with revenue and profit. Of course the industry must abide by laws and regulations, but over time, I realised societal interests don’t always get the attention they should. The real power to align public and private interests lies in strong policy—that is what inspired me to join government. I wanted to be able to contribute to some of the rules and regulations that shape private sector investments. Knowing that the industry is capable of so much more guided my career transition. I became a public servant for the State of California, working on policies to reduce pollution, many which have become models for other US states and other countries.
One of the first things I did in my current position at ClimateWorks was to forge strong relationships with my international counterparts. We formulated powerful collaborations sustained to this day. The Global EDV Advisory Group, for example, now has over 70 representatives from many countries working to address the biggest challenges in shifting away from oil combustion towards cleaner modes of road transport. I’m very proud because we convened them, but the group grew organically out of members’ passion and commitment.
Along with We Mean Business and The Climate Group, we started EV100, an initiative supporting clean transportation action by corporations. Four years ago, this was just an idea on one page of paper. Now, over a hundred companies internationally—representing a fleet of over 4.8 million vehicles—are taking real-world steps to achieve bold climate action. To see something grow from the germ of an idea to global collaboration is incredibly rewarding.
Together with the Hewlett and Energy Foundations, we also supported a coalition for the Advanced Clean Trucks rule in California. The first of its kind anywhere, this regulation sets requirements for manufacturers to shift all types of trucks—from vans delivering packages to your doorstep to cross-country long-haul trucks—to become cleaner, zero-emission trucks.
The Advanced Clean Trucks coalition included not just traditional environmental groups, but also health organisations, labour groups interested in securing clean jobs of the future, and frontline communities most impacted by pollution, such as those living in and around ports, distribution centres and freight corridors. These communities could genuinely speak about the current system’s impacts on their lives and livelihoods in a way that really resonated with decision-makers.
This diverse and powerful coalition convinced the governing agency to double the strength of the rule from the original proposal. This will ensure over half of all truck sales will be zero-emission within 15 years, while ensuring clean truck availability, affordability, and delivering significant economic and health benefits along the way. Now we and partners are supporting other states including the 15 states that have committed to work toward 100% zero-emission truck before 2050, and other countries considering implementing a similar targets and regulations.
What we’re seeing now is an incredible groundswell of organisations and individuals, including those representing communities overburdened by pollution for decades. They’re saying: “We are done waiting, we’re ready for this change.” They are demanding bold action. It’s a very genuine expression of what they want the future to be: cleaner, more equitable, more just. The level of energy in this movement is unlike I’ve ever seen in my career.
Hopes for the future
While we are nearing an inflection point, we also have to guard against complacency and misplaced scepticism fuelled by misinformation, which can lead to not taking the bold actions today at the speed and scale our planet needs. Solutions are within reach that would allow us to scale up to a dramatically cleaner transportation system worldwide. This would benefit the climate of course, but also provide enormous benefits for our health, jobs and local economies. We are so close, but to get there requires sustained effort over the next several years, with governments, companies, and civil-society working together globally.
If I had 10 minutes to speak at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference, I would appeal to world leaders from the public and private sector to continue our actions whether through smart government policy, corporate investment or support for diverse coalitions who are pushing for solutions. Until we are solidly on the road to a much cleaner and better future, we cannot not let off the throttle.
This story was based on an interview with Anthony in March.
Anthony Eggert is the senior director of the transportation programme at ClimateWorks Foundation. He previously served as the founding director of the Policy Institute at the University of California, Davis and was a public servant including as a California Energy Commissioner and Deputy Secretary for the California Environmental Protection Agency. Learn more about Anthony’s work to achieve 100% electric road transportation at www.drivelectriccampaign.org.
ClimateWorks Foundation is a partner of the IKEA Foundation. It provides vital programs and services for funders who share a commitment to protecting the planet.