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The recent policy debate over fuel efficiency in Washington, D.C., commonly called CAFE standards, obscures the fact that in a globally competitive economy, we need to both protect the environment in the United States and preserve and create jobs.

We all need to avoid the false claim that protecting the environment is bad for the economy. Well-crafted policies can protect current and future American jobs and even grow jobs as new technologies emerge. We know that this can be done in a smart, effective manner.

In fact, that is the reason the UAW was central to the original CAFE agreement, which was carefully crafted to reduce emissions, increase fuel efficiency, give manufacturers flexibility to meet stringency standards, and create jobs in vehicle production and advanced technology. The UAW is proud of the role we played in reaching a consensus among a wide variety of stakeholders, including the Obama Administration, state and federal regulators, the automobile industry, environmental advocates, elected officials and others to reduce greenhouse gases and raise the average fuel economy of vehicles.

The potential problem with the recent proposed U.S. CAFE changes is that it could have a destabilizing impact on the future market of autos here and abroad. That’s because these proposed changes would differ from fuel standards for car buyers in Asia, Europe and even here in California. Quite simply, the market shrinks if only U.S. buyers can purchase the vehicles made for the U.S. market because U.S. fuel standards differ from other countries.

All of us have a role to play in reducing the use of fossil fuels, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting our environment. We are now the only country in the world not part of the Paris Climate Accord that aims to fight global warming. Ignoring climate change does not eliminate the dangers it poses. That’s why acting to create policies that strike a balance between achieving fuel standards and protecting working families and domestic U.S. manufacturing is the sensible approach for future jobs.

Fuel efficiency is our auto industry’s future — plain and simple. From electric vehicles to full-sized pickups, fuel efficiency is improving across the industry. Countries around the globe continue to promote greater efficiency and lower emissions. If we ignore these realities, we could see the U.S. auto industry fall behind, hurting the American economy and American workers by ceding the auto markets of the future. Smart, balanced policies will make sure the U.S. auto industry does not fall behind, while also ensuring that these vehicles of the future are produced here, creating good paying union wage jobs.

Well-constructed policies can promote investment, establish certainty, create new jobs in vehicle production and advanced technology, and allow manufacturers the flexibility necessary to meet worldwide standards and compete across the globe.

But, this can only occur if all stakeholders work together and form a consensus that leads to UAW members not only building fuel efficient vehicles but increasing the footprint of American UAW vehicles worldwide. The UAW has played a central role in crafting sensible CAFE standards and we will continue to do so. The environment can win and so can American UAW members and all American workers.

Gary Jones is president of UAW International Union.

Labor Voices

Labor Voices columns are written on a rotating basis by United Auto Workers President Gary Jones, Teamsters President James Hoffa, Michigan AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber and Michigan Education Association President Paula Herbart.

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