While the declaration was made by a wide-ranging coalition of vehicle manufacturers, fleet operators, governments and investors, notable absentee signatories included the central governments of major vehicle manufacturing countries, such as the U.S., Japan, Germany and China. In a similar manner, for the number of large vehicle manufacturers which did sign the declaration (Ford, General Motors and Volvo), there were an equal number of household names (Toyota, Volkswagen and BMW) which were missing.
The declaration also highlights one of the fundamental ‘chicken and egg’ dilemmas in tackling climate change on a global scale – no one wants to do it alone, but little happens unless the majority go together. This applies not only to governments, but also to public and private stakeholders. It is unlikely, for example, that a commitment from BMW will happen without an equivalent pledge from countries where its vehicles are sold. There was progress with several emerging markets during the conference (including India, Rwanda and Kenya), committing to accelerate their transition to EVs.
However, in terms of finance, most governments were reluctant to commit significant sums towards a global transition. The only notable pledge was the launch of a World Bank fund to mobilise $200 million over the next decade to decarbonise road transport in developing economies.
Public transport, cycling and walking
Ahead of COP26, the UK’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, set out the mantra of the conference as “coal, cash, cars and trees”, and it proved true that cars, above all other forms of transport, dominated discussions. Commentators criticised the lack of progress on plans to invest and encourage public transport, cycling and walking. The same sentiment was felt among campaigners at the conference who pointed to the delta between the free city-wide travel pass for delegates and the lack of a fully integrated public transport system being available for Glasgow’s residents.
While there is an inherent tension between accelerating EV growth and the encouragement of less private vehicle use, progress in both is arguably not mutually exclusive when it comes to developments needed in low-carbon fuel, transport modelling and smart grids.
The focus of COP26 and ‘zero emissions’ discussions of vehicles to date have centred on tailpipe emissions, rather than lifecycle ones. The Zero Emission Vehicles Council’s Action Plan touched on this point, with the aim to ensure supply chains are sustainable and ethical, indicating that collaboration will be needed “including on data, due diligence frameworks, policy to instil circular economy principles and the development of the ecosystem for battery end-of-life.” Lifecycle emissions of all forms of transport will no doubt come under increasing scrutiny as governments and the European Union (EU) start to map out their green taxonomies.
As we reflect on COP26, significant challenges to decarbonising transport remain. Global plans for a transition to net zero need to be more inclusive and holistic, not only to comprise all forms of transport, but also to facilitate the changes needed to infrastructure, standards and supply chains. With the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) taking place in Egypt in November 2022, the next opportunity for the global community to reconvene and take a more ambitious approach to transport is not far away. In the meantime, the focus for government and industry will be on how to progress change through sustainable investment within the current regulatory and policy framework, turning commitments at macro level into deliverable solutions.
Source: Intelligent Transport