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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

COP 26: Four major carmakers fail to back zero emissions pledge


Four of the world’s biggest carmakers have failed to sign a COP 26 summit pledge to only sell zero emissions cars and vans by 2035.

Volkswagen, Toyota, Renault-Nissan and Hyundai-Kia were not among signatories to the climate summit declaration.

China and US, which are the world’s biggest car markets, were also absent from the list of signatories.

Big car manufacturers that did sign up included Ford, General Motors, and Jaguar Land Rover.

What did the pledge say?

The declaration, which was made at the COP 26 climate summit in Glasgow, called on signatories to speed up the global transition from cars that burn fossil fuels to zero emissions vehicles, which include electric cars and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

The agreement, signed by governments and city governments around the world, commits signatories to phasing out the sale of new cars that emit emissions in “leading markets” by 2035, and globally by 2040.

Investors and banks have pledged their support for the transition, and some fleet owners have pledged to green their car and van fleets.

Who signed up the list?

Some major carmakers were signatories, including Ford, General Motors, Jaguar Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo.

Governments that signed up included Canada, Denmark, India, Ireland, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, and the UK – although Britain has already said it will ban sales of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030.

Some US cities and states put their names to the list, including New York and California.

Investors including Aviva and NatWest, and fleet owners including supermarkets Sainsbury’s and Tesco also signed up.

VW recently an electric SUV, the ID.5

Who was absent from the list?

While some cities in the United States, including Dallas, Los Angeles, and New York City, signed up, the United States, the world’s largest car market, was left off the list.

China, the world’s second-largest auto market, was also conspicuously absent. Germany, the EU’s largest car market, did not sign up.

The world’s two largest automakers, Volkswagen and Toyota, were absent from the list, as were rival automakers Renault-Nissan and Hyundai-Kia.

Volkswagen, which recently unveiled its ID.5 electric SUV, stated that while it was developing electrified products, the environmental benefits of joining the pledge were unclear because electricity production in the United States and China is still heavily reliant on burning fossil fuels.

According to a spokesman, the fact that major markets rely on fossil fuels to generate electricity means that “the argument isn’t there” for pledging to only sell electric and other zero-emission vehicles by 2035, and that “we are just being realistic.”

“We believe that an accelerated shift to electro mobility must be accompanied by an energy transition to 100 percent renewables,” the automaker said in a statement.

“The Volkswagen Group, which has operations in all major markets around the world, has decided not to sign the declaration at this time.”

Toyota, which released its first commercially produced electric vehicle in 1997, stated that it will “provide the most appropriate vehicles, including zero emission products, in response to the diverse economic environments, clean energy and charging infrastructure readiness, industrial policies, and customer needs in each country and region.”

Why does this matter?

In the EU and the US, transportation accounts for roughly one-third of carbon dioxide emissions, which is one of the greenhouse gases contributing to global warming.

In the EU, road transportation accounts for roughly 70% of the total.

According to Professor David Bailey of the University of Birmingham Business School, for this declaration in Glasgow to be a game changer, it needed the support of major governments and automakers.

“Without the United States, China, and Germany on board, we will not be able to get vehicle emissions where we need to be by 2050,” Professor Bailey said, adding that the major automakers must also be “on board.”

He stated that the United States “has a penchant for big pick-up” trucks, which will eventually need to be electrified, but a 2035 target for new sales would not garner popular support for US President Joe Biden.

Germany’s car industry is divided between electrification and the desire to use synthetic fuels, whereas China is heavily reliant on coal and is building more coal power plants.

Setting zero-emission vehicle sales targets in China would beg the question of why the country was not committing to more renewable energy generation, he added.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps launched the new charge point design

Were there any more COP 26 transport announcements?

According to the government, the UK established the Zero Emission Vehicle Transition Council (ZEVTC), a group of 30 countries that “have agreed to work together to make zero emission vehicles the new normal.”

It also stated that all new heavy goods vehicles will be zero-emission by 2040, with HGVs weighing less than 26 tonnes being phased out beginning in 2035.

The Road Haulage Association stated that it is “concerned about the timing of phasing out some sizes of new trucks beginning in 2035.”

Rod McKenzie, the RHA’s managing director of policy and public affairs, stated:

“We support the government’s goal of decarbonizing the economy, but the pace may be impossibly fast. Care must be taken to ensure that all markets are served and that future supply chain disruptions are avoided.

“We would like to see the deadline for lorries weighing more than 18 tonnes extended by five years, as well as assistance for hauliers in making the transition.

“There are no proven alternatives to diesel for all uses, locations, ranges, and the heaviest trucks. To ensure a sustainable and successful transition to zero tailpipe lorries, the timeline will need to be reviewed on a regular basis in the coming years.”

The United Kingdom also unveiled a new design for electric vehicle charging stations, claiming that it “could become as iconic as the Great British post box, London bus, or black cab.”

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