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EVs broadly backed at COP26, but major markets and makers missing

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A group of over 100 countries, companies, states and cities have committed to phasing out petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040 on 'Transport Day' at the UN’s COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. However, some of the most important players were notably absent from the list of signatories.

Cars, trucks, ships, buses and aircraft account for about a quarter of all CO2 emissions, according to data from the International Energy Agency, with road-based vehicles being the main culprits.

The 'Glasgow Declaration on Zero Emission Cars and Vans' - introduced at COP26 - pledges signatories to “rapidly” accelerate the transition to less-polluting vehicles. Leading markets will aim to end the sale of vehicles with internal combustion engines by 2035, with other markets aiming for 2040.

According to reports, major signatories include Ford, General Motors, Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, BYD Co, and Jaguar Land Rover from the automotive industry; the countries of India, New Zealand and Poland; individual cities such as Seoul, Sao Paolo, California and New York State, and corporations with large purchasing power, including Leaseplan, Uber and Sainsbury’s.

A number of big Latin American cities – including Bogotá, Cuenca and Salvador – specifically pledged to electrify their public transport fleets by 2035.

Following these pledges, 31 per cent of the global passenger vehicle market will be covered by vehicle manufacturer commitments to end sales of fossil fuel vehicles, up from a trivial share of the market at the start of the year. An analysis from Reuters estimated that automakers plan to spend more than half a trillion dollars on EVs and batteries through 2030.

However, the world’s top two automakers (Toyota and Volkswagen) and top two car markets (China and the US) were not prepared to sign the pledge. Germany also did not sign up to the declaration; a German environment spokesperson said that this was due to the coalition government having not yet reached consensus on a “marginal aspect” of the pledge relating to a technicality.

Other large automakers that did not sign the pledge include Stellantis, Honda, Nissan, BMW and Hyundai. An industry source told Reuters that some automakers are wary of the pledge, as it commits them to an expensive technological transition without a matching commitment from government to provide the necessary charging and grid infrastructure. The European Commission has proposed an effective ban on fossil fuel vehicles by 2035; this would be accompanied by the necessary commitment to improving the charging infrastructure demanded by automakers.

Meanwhile, the UK government unveiled the new design for EV charging points at COP26’s UK Pavilion. It said it hopes the design will become as iconic as red phone boxes or black cabs. Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “To support the transition to EVs, it’s integral that we have the infrastructure to support it. My vision is for the UK to have one of the best EV infrastructure networks in the world, with excellent British design at its heart.”

Commenting on the pledges, DevicePilot CEO Pilgrim Beart said: “We urgently need a global commitment to emissions free vehicles. Today’s pledge is a start, but it sounds more ambitious in theory than in practice. 2040 is a long way away and the remarkable growth of the EV industry in recent years has made it easy for countries to support this date. By 2030, petrol and diesel vehicles will feel very outdated. By 2035 or 2040, they will be relics. It will be akin to seeing a three-wheeler on the road today.”

“A 2040 timeline should be an absolute worse-case scenario. It’s vitally important that more countries sign up to the pledge and take significant steps to support a universal emissions free vehicle future by 2030.”

Regarding HGVs, at least 13 countries signed a memorandum of understanding committing to end the sale of fossil fuel-powered HGVs by 2040. The UK, which had previously indicated that it would aim for this phase-out date, affirmed it would phase out fossil fuel-powered HGVs weighing up to 26 tonnes by 2035 and all new fossil-fuel HGVs by 2040.

Transport Day at COP26 is also addressing the decarbonisation of shipping and aviation, which are considered hard-to-abate sectors. Over 200 businesses in the shipping value chain committed to scaling and commercialising zero-emission shipping vessels and fuels by 2030, with nine large corporations (including Amazon, Ikea, Michelin, Unilever and Patagonia) announcing they would shift their ocean freight entirely to vessels powered by zero-carbon fuel by 2040. 19 countries signed the 'Clydebank declaration' to support the establishment of zero-emission shipping routes, with at least six zero-emission maritime corridors to be in place by 2050.

Over 80 aviation industry businesses and large corporate customers said they would aim to boost green fuel to 10 per cent of global jet fuel demand by 2030, representing a 1,000-fold increase from today.

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