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After COP26, is the future bright?

Posted by David: Dec 09, 2021 4 min read

After all the pledges and promises, the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference finally came to an end in November. But was it enough?

Between the 31st of October and the 12th of November, Glasgow played host to the COP26 summit. Over the course of the two week event, around 200 countries - and the fossil fuel industry, which, ironically, had more representatives present at the event (503!) than any country or industry - were tasked with publishing their plans to cut their emissions by 2030.

At COP26, many world leaders voiced their concerns, with UK Prime Minister Boris ‘Jet-Setting’ Johnson warning “It’s one minute to midnight” on the climate change doomsday clock.

But after all the agreements and achievements - of which there were many! - we can’t help but feel a little disappointment.

What was announced at COP26

Some of the key outcomes include an agreement to end deforestation (including, somewhat surprisingly, Brazil), India’s better-late-than-never much better than most realise 2070 net-zero target, and a genuinely unexpected (yet light on detail) climate cooperation agreement between the US and China.

Meanwhile, we were treated to rousing speeches from notable attendees spread throughout the event, including Sir David Attenborough and former US President Barack Obama, as well as a delightful song by climate activist Greta Thunberg.

In the second week of the event it was transport’s time in the spotlight, which heralded a number of announcements:

Electric cars & vehicle transport

  • The UK has committed to end the sale of the majority of new diesel trucks by 2040. In particular, new non-tailpipe emission HGVs under 26 tonnes will be phased out by 2030, with the phase-out for those over 26 tonnes due to complete by 2040.
  • The US joins the UK as the co-chair of the Zero Emission Vehicle Transition Council (ZEVTC), which will launch its first Action Plan in 2022 aimed at coordinating international cooperation on ZEVs.
  • As part of the Glasgow Breakthrough Agenda, over 40 nations will coordinate to make zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) more accessible and affordable globally by 2030.
  • Emerging markets like India, Rwanda and Kenya have agreed to accelerate the transition to ZEVs.
  • A new $200 million World Bank trust fund will help emerging markets and developing economies decarbonise their road transport.

Aviation & shipping

  • Clydebank Declaration: Zero-emission ‘green shipping corridors’ will be established between the ports of 19 governments, which involves installing charging and alternative fuel infrastructure and the development of zero-emission ship technologies.
  • Commitments from the International Aviation Climate Ambition Coalition to make air travel more green by using sustainable fuels and a global carbon offsetting scheme.

Although there were lots of positives, such as rules finally being agreed for carbon offset markets - something the previous two conferences couldn’t succeed in doing - some parts of COP26 fell short of expectations.

Despite the triumphant adoption of the Glasgow climate pact, one of the biggest disappointments is undoubtedly the watered down language used around coal. Last-minute interventions and compromises meant the wording was changed from the more affirmative “phasing out” of coal to a weaker and ambiguous “phasing down”.

Meanwhile, the conference was underpinned by stark warnings from numerous scientists and institutions that the promises made at COP26 still wouldn’t go far enough.

One of the most dire predictions came via the Climate Action Tracker’s (CAT) “reality check” that global temperatures will increase by 2.4C, which is based on various nations’ 2030 emissions targets.

A separate report from the Global Carbon Project (GCP) also suggested that global CO2 emissions are on track to return to the record levels seen before the coronavirus pandemic.

Our thoughts on COP26

The ban on diesel trucks is a smart move, and it makes sense considering the government previously pledged to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030.

And with the adoption of EVs in the UK continuing to accelerate, we’re thrilled that more is being done to help emerging markets and developing economies join the green transport revolution.

Despite the dire warnings, any pledge to accelerate the transition to ZEVs is more than welcome to us. We believe in the power of new technologies to drive non-linear, exponential change - after all, we’re currently experiencing it in the EV space - so we’re electing to remain positive about the planet’s future!

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