9 things you need to know from Transport Day at COP26

We're into the last stretch of negotiations

After a day dedicated to Science, Innovation and Gender on Tuesday (9 November), COP26 is officially into its final 72 hours, with today’s agenda having focused on decarbonising transport. 

There was also the publication of the UN’s draft cover decision of negotiations, and confirmation that a further edition will be with us by this time on Thursday, as well as a major new declaration from the US and China. 

Here, edie summarises eight of the day’s major stories in brief. 

1) Draft negotiations documents published, setting the tone for remaining days

Later than expected, the UNFCCC published a draft cover decision of negotiations at the summit so far, after a “non-paper” of possible inclusions published at the weekend left many unanswered questions on how 1.5C will be kept alive.

The documents call on nations to “revisit and strengthen” their 2030 climate targets by the end of 2022, in line with 1.5C. There is also a mention of phasing out fossil fuel subsidies which, if kept, will be the first statement of its kind at a COP.

These are historic moves, but reaction has largely been negative. The plans are not yet fully 1.5C-aligned and they may yet be weakened as those present at negotiations relay the inclusions to their respective world leaders. Moreover, many green groups have argued that the time for “expressing alarm and concern” has passed and that more should have been promised in terms of concrete action. Additionally, a lack of plans on loss and damage has proven disappointing.

2) China, Germany and US skip international deal on electric vehicles

Coming back to the transport focus, and today has seen a string of new international announcements from governments, cities, states, regions and businesses.

The UK Government had stated, before COP26 began in Glasgow, that it intended to gather global momentum around its own commitments to end new petrol and diesel car sales by 2030 and new petrol and diesel heavy goods vehicle (HGV) sales by 2040.

As expected, this commitment has taken shape, with a new declaration signed by more than 30 countries and dozens of businesses – both those that manufacture vehicles and those that operate fleets. The declaration states that, in keeping with a net-zero world by 2050, all new vehicle sales should be zero-emission by 2035 in leading markets. There is a 2040 deadline for all other markets.

The world’s three largest car markets, the US, Germany and China, have not signed the declaration at this stage, but businesses, cities and regions in these geographies have.

You can read edie’s full story, which has a list of those signed up, here.

There was also the launch of a separate ‘Count Us In Citizens’ Declaration’, calling on world leaders to ensure that only new zero-emission vehicles are sold in the bus space by 2030, followed by light-duty vehicles in 2035 and heavy-duty vehicles in 2035.

3) Nations representing 40% of aviation emissions pledge sector-specific 1.5C goals

From the roads to the skies, now: 18 nations have signed a new declaration in support of the development on emissions targets for aviation that are aligned with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5C temperature pathway. The targets will be pre-2050 and developed in line with global net-zero by 2050.

Canada, France, Ireland, Japan, Spain, Turkey, the US, the UK, Korea, Norway, the Netherlands, Morocco, the Maldives, Kenya, Finland, Costa Rica and Burkina Faso are the first signatories to the declaration. These nations are collectively responsible for more than 40% of global annual emissions from aviation.

There will also be guidance on which technologies should be used to deliver the commitment, but the declaration does not consider capping growth.

4) Businesses team up to grow sustainable aviation fuel sector

From the private sector this morning, the big news on aviation is that the Sustainable Aviation Buyers Alliance (SABA) has opened to new members for the first time. 

The Alliance was launched in April by RMI and the Environmental Defence Fund, in the aim of bringing together the purchasing power of fuel buyers to stimulate the scaling of supply chains for alternative fuels and to encourage policy support.

Its founding members included JP Morgan Chase, Boeing, Deloitte, Microsoft, Netflix, Deloitte, Boston Consulting Group and Salesforce. New members include United Airlines, JetBlue, Alaska Airlines and Amazon Air – the e-commerce giant’s aviation arm.

SAF accounted for just 0.1% of global aviation fuel use in 2020 but is being touted as a major short-term solution, as it is a drop-in replacement in blends of up to 50%. 

5) Net-zero shipping routes planned by 19 nations, as 200+ businesses back zero-emission vessels

As with aviation, there were new announcements from governments and the private sector on decarbonising the maritime sector.

From national governments, a new ‘Clydebank Declaration’ will unite at least 19 nations in developing zero-emission shipping routes between ports. These so-called ‘green shipping corridors’ will act as a test-bed for emerging technologies. Bodies such as the Global Maritime Forum and World Economic Forum are foreseeing that a mix of technologies will be needed for low-carbon shipping, including hydrogen, ammonia, methanol and electrification.

The aim is to establish at least six corridors by the mid-2020s, which are likely to be shorter routes, and to add “many more routes”, including long-haul routes, by 2030.

Signing the Clydebank Declaration are Australia, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Denmark, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Marshall Islands, Morocco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, the US and the UK.

In the private sector, the Getting to Zero Coalition announced that it is now convening 200 businesses, up from 150 in September. It has also issued a call to action for policymakers, urging them to set overarching net-zero targets for the sector with pre-2050 deadlines; to support large-scale demonstration projects and to change policy by 2023, so that zero-emissions options are “the default” by 2030.

In related news, UN Global Compact has partnered with the International Chamber of Shipping and International Transport Workers to launch a new Just Transition Taskforce for the sector. The Taskforce will develop policy and business recommendations for developing the skills and jobs needed globally for a net-zero shipping sector. Some 1.7 million people worldwide serve as seafarers.

6) Protestors call for free public transport, better cycling infrastructure

Groups including Get Glasgow Moving and Friends of the Earth were protesting in the city today, asking why there have not been specific mentions of walking or cycling for today’s agenda in the Blue Zone.

Groups also gathered to ask the UK Government, and local councils, to improve plans for making low-carbon public transport more accessible. There was specific anger directed at the fact that COP26 delegates are given a travel pass that enables free access to buses and trains, while usual fares in the city are typically higher than those in London.

The Scottish Government recently announced free bus travel for all aged 22 and under, with this set to be in place in early 2022. It is also undertaking a “fair fares review”, seeking options for lowering ticket prices and offering tickets that let people use multiple modes of transport.

Additionally, trade union delegates have written to Alok Sharma, expressing concern that there is not enough international commitment to a just transition.

7) UK’s Environment Bill finally enshrined in law

If it weren’t for COP26, this may well have been edie’s best-read UK green policy story for the week: the UK Government’s Environment Bill has received Royal Assent after a process lasting more than two years.

The Bill was introduced in a bid to support the Government’s overarching vision for leaving nature in a better state for the next generation, and to confirm the UK’s approach to environmental governance post-Brexit. Its progression through Parliament has been plagued by delays compounded by Brexit and Covid-19, and, latterly, by votes to weaken provision on issues including woodland protection and reducing raw sewage discharges.

Read edie’s full story here.

8) Boris Johnson is back in Glasgow, but still feeling the heat

Johnson took a train to Glasgow today after coming under fire for taking a short-haul flight last week following the World Leaders Summit, and then reportedly meeting climate sceptic Charles Moore for a dinner during the week. He looks set to only stop in Glasgow briefly but has been asked to stay, it has been reported.

Ahead of his arrival, Johnson said: “This is bigger than any one country and it is time for nations to put aside differences and come together for our planet and our people. We need to pull out all the stops if we’re going to keep 1.5C within our grasp.”

Delivering a press conference to COP26 attendees this evening, Johnson, among other things:

  • Confirmed that the UK is still considering whether to join the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance
  • Justified not staying longer by saying he needed to be in London tomorrow and to use “climate-friendly” transport
  • Stated that “as you look at the final period of this negotiation, there’s no doubt that finance is the great solvent”

On whether he believes COP26 will keep 1.5C alive, he said: “I agree that 1.5C is in the balance…. We had a surge of activity in the first couple of days… we are not finding things are tough. But that does not mean it is impossible with sufficient energy and commitment.

“The COP26 summit here in Glasgow is not going to fix it all in one go. That is just impossible and I think everyone has got to be realistic about that.

“If things go well… there is the possibility that we come away from this with the first genuine roadmap for a solution to anthropogenic climate change.”

9) China and the US release ‘joint declaration’ on climate action 

The US and China are the worlds two biggest emitters, in terms of annual emissions in recent years. The media centre was packed out this evening as the nations unveiled a joint declaration on addressing climate change this decade. 

The declaration confirms that the two nations will convene a joint working group regularly, with the first meeting set for early 2022, on issues including methane emissions, low-carbon energy and deforestation. The aim will be to flash out long-term net-zero plans with “concrete” actions to be taken this decade. The nations call for “stepped-up efforts” to close the “significant gap” that remains to a Paris-aligned world. 

There are commitments to strengthen national and sub-national methane reduction targets and to assess whether 2030 NDCs are 1.5C-aligned ahead of COP27. Little is said in the way of new commitments on fossil fuels, bar confirmation, once more, that the US plans to follow in the UK’s footsteps and end unabated fossil electricity by 2035. 

China’s top climate negotiator Xie Zhenhu told media representatives: “In areas of climate change, there is more agreement between China and US than divergence.”

This is a breaking news story and edie will add more information in due course. 

Stay up-to-date with the latest news from COP26 with edie’s Live Blog and Daily COP26 Covered Podcast Series. 

Sarah George and Matt Mace

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