Global menu

Our global pages

Close

COP26: Transport Day, 10 November 2021

  • Global
  • ESG
  • ESG - Sustainable Finance
  • Financial services and markets regulation - ESG
  • Energy and infrastructure - Clean energy

11-11-2021

As the UK Prime Minister urged nations to “pull out all the stops” in the final few days of COP26, Transport Day proved to be one of the most energetic days of the conference yet.

US China Breakthrough

Away from the technical pledges made by key players in the transport sector, China and the US (the two largest CO2 emitters globally) have announced that they will work together to achieve the 1.5 °C temperature goal set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement. The US-China Declaration recognises the "significant gap" that remains to achieve the 1.5 °C target and both sides have committed to closing this gap on the road to net zero.

Some of the key commitments include a commitment to the reduction of methane emissions as well as a transition to clean energy. With China already considered a market leader in many clean energy systems, including solar power, this reaffirming of commitments between the two global superpowers has been cautiously welcomed by academics and activists at COP26 with Genevieve Maricle, director of US climate policy action WWF, stating that the announcement offered a "new hope".

A New Agreement on CO2 Emissions

COP26 president, Alok Sharma, has said that he expects the "near final texts" of the Draft Agreement committing to CO2 reductions to be published shortly. The current seven-page draft focuses primarily on adaptation: how ‘developing’ countries can mitigate the effects of climate change and on finance, as poorer nations demand monetary assistance from the richer counterparts, who by-and-large are the greatest CO2 emitters.

The document describes the 10 years ahead as a “critical decade”, acknowledging the importance of the 1.5 °C target set in Paris 6 years ago. The draft text also acknowledges that now is the time for the fine detail, with nations being called upon to bolster their carbon-cutting action plans. The draft document also calls on nations to completely remove subsidies for the fossil fuel industry and accelerate the phase out of the dirtiest fuel, coal. Critics have remarked that a seven-page document simply cannot contain the necessary detail required to reach net zero, with many still concerned with how failures to meet these climate commitments will be policed and how polluting nations will be sanctioned.

Key Pledges from the Transport Sector

Public Transport

A new Report by C40 Cities and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) is calling for global public transit use to double by 2030. The Report, co-signed by city officials, labour leaders and policy experts have stated that if nations are to meet the 1.5 °C target by 2050, doubling public transport usage is the key. With the Report calling for $208 billion in annual investments for the nearly 100 cities that make up the C40 network (with these cities making make up around 25% of global GDP). The report also makes clear that one of the easiest solutions for nations to meet their commitments, is to decarbonise their public transport infrastructure. Wednesday saw city mayors and local leaders calling for electric buses, low emission zones within city limits and electrified rail networks. It is expected that the public transport system may well be one of the first sectors capable of reaching their net-zero commitments.

Aviation

One sector that is still struggling to grapple with the prospect of a net-zero future is that of the aviation sector, with an aviation climate declaration on Wednesday failing to place any firm limits on future airport expansions.

The International Aviation Climate Ambition Coalition (IACAC) has committed to working to reduce aviation CO2 emissions in line with the global target of 1.5 °C. However, Mira Kapfinger a spokesperson sustainable transport network Stay Grounded has commented that 2050 targets for the aviation industry a simply too “far-off”.

The Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) have said the IACAC’s declaration is a “useful initiative”, but emphasised that the need for domestic legislation in curbing aviation-based CO2 emissions was also essential.

Four key points have emerged from Wednesday’s conference in respect of the aviation sector:

  • Governments need to commit to less flying
  • Ending airport expansion
  • Making airlines accountable for their emissions and
  • Having airlines invest in zero carbon technologies.

Automotive

The automotive industry was also under intense scrutiny at Wednesday’s COP26 Conference. Though China and the US have pledged to reduce their CO2 in other ways at Wednesday’s conference; China, the United States and Germany were absent from the 2040 automotive commitment, with four of world’s five largest vehicle makers also failing to back the COP26 emissions target.

Manufacturers like Ford, General Motors and Daimler all took part in the pledge to reduce emissions. However, despite intense pressure from the UK government, Hyundai-Kia, Volkswagen, Toyota, and Renault-Nissan did not sign up to the commitments. Many of the manufacturers taking part have committed to only selling electric vehicles by 2030. However many in the automotive sector have raised questions as to the obsolescence of petrol and diesel vehicles and how these vehicles will be taken off the roads.

Despite the absence of many of the heavy-hitters in the sector, Grant Shapps, the UK’s transport secretary has said that the deal was “a tipping point in the transition to clean road transport”.

Final Days at COP26

Though some of the commitments made on COP26’s Transport Day, fell short of expectations, the commitments made across aviation, public transit and automotive show a clear direction that there is a willingness within the industry. Resistance still exists, especially where there are fears that the consumer will be effected by these changes. It may well prove that technology and breakthroughs in green energies will provide the ideal solution for the transport sector.

Dominic Lacey comments: "On the current state of technology there remains an inherent tension between mobility and carbon emissions. The absence of a clear multi-modal commitment to achieving zero emission transport reflects this. There appears a willingness across industry and governments, but in the medium term its seems likely that policy makers will focus on decarbonising public transport infrastructure and encouraging EVs - the approach to maritime and air transport is more technologically, socially and economically challenging."