COP26: US, China, major brands sit out of new global pledge on transitioning to 100% zero-emission vehicles

Transport is the UK's most-emitting sector

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 on Transport Day at Glasgow’s Scottish Events Campus, with a new international declaration for nations and non-state actors. 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.

Developed nations have committed to announcing bans as soon as possible, while emerging and developing markets state that they will “work intensely towards accelerated proliferation and adoption of zero-emission vehicles” and collaborate with other nations to ensure a just transition.

The world’s three largest car markets, the US, Germany and China, have not signed the declaration at this stage.

The pledge for cities, states, and regions, meanwhile, involves converting owned or leased fleets to zero-emission vehicles by 2035 or sooner, and “putting in place policies that will enable, accelerate, or otherwise incentivise the transition to zero-emission vehicles as soon as possible, to the extent possible given our jurisdictional powers”.

Notably, the US States of California, New York and Washington backed the deal, as well as cities such as Dallas, Charleston, Atlanta and Seattle.

The commitment for automotive manufacturers is to develop a business strategy for transitioning to a 100% zero-emission vehicle portfolio by 2035. Despite months of pressure by the UK, four of the world’s five largest carmakers — Volkswagen, Toyota, the Renault-Nissan alliance, and Hyundai-Kia — have not signed up at this stage. BMW is also notably absent.

The companies which are signed up are Avera EVs, BYD Auto, Etrio, Ford, Gayam Motor Works, General Motors, Jaguar Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz, MOBI, Quantum Motors and Volvo Cars. Volvo has also, today, set an internal carbon price of 1,000 Swedish Krona per tonne, approximately £85. 

Despite the absences, the UK Government is forecasting that zero-emission vehicles will account for 40% of all new car sales in 2040. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that zero-emission transport has now “reached a tipping point”.

Next steps for the UK

Following its own commitments on zero-emission vehicles, the UK Government is facing continuing pressure to ensure that there are adequate plans on infrastructure and skills to deliver the transition. The Green Finance Institute has today published a new set of policy recommendations including increased loan capacity for EVs to help boost sales in the short-term, coupled with finance bundles of vehicle, energy and charging infrastructure through monthly payments.

Other entities to have put forward policy recommendations in this field include the Transport Select Committee and the House of Lords’ Science and Technology Select Committee.

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

Sarah George

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