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Era Free of Fossil-Fuel Powered Vehicles Comes into Focus at COP26

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Over 100 national governments, cities, states and major businesses signed the Glasgow Declaration on Zero-Emission Cars and Vans to end the sale of internal combustion engines by 2035 in leading markets worldwide. At least 13 nations also committed to ending the sale of fossil fuel-powered heavy-duty vehicles by 2040.
A zero emission National Express bus at the COP26 Climate Conference in Glasgow, Scotland.
A world where every car, bus and truck sold is electric and affordable, where shipping vessels use only sustainable fuels, and where planes can run on green hydrogen may sound like a sci-fi movie, but, at COP26, where crucial climate negotiations are in the final stretch governments and businesses said they have started to work to make it a reality. 

Over 100 national governments, cities, states and major businesses signed the Glasgow Declaration on Zero-Emission Cars and Vans to end the sale of internal combustion engines by 2035 in leading markets worldwide.  At least 13 nations also committed to ending the sale of fossil fuel-powered heavy-duty vehicles by 2040. 

The transport sector is responsible for approximately one-quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Intergovernmental Panel of Experts on Climate Change (IPCC). Emissions from the transport sector have more than doubled since 1970, with around 80 per cent of the increase caused by road vehicles, yet it’s almost entirely dependent on fossil fuels. 

“The message for decision-makers is: We need to make sure that we start normalizing that by 2035, we must stop selling petrol and diesel cars. For buses, it’s going to be earlier, 2030; heavy trucking can give some time, 2040. The point is getting used to the idea of having a calendar so we can shift to zero-emission options in all segments. This is not just for advanced markets in developed countries, it’s also for developing economies because we know the worst pollution is there,” said Monica Araya from the global initiative Drive Electric Campaign. 

Araya was very clear that during the transition, developing countries must not become the dumping grounds for old technology from the richest ones, and instead they should be seen as drivers of transformational change. 

“…I do remember going to school on a third-hand bus imported from the US. That experience shaped a lot of my thinking around this transition. I know, on the one hand, we have to make sure we transform the big markets that produce trucks, buses, cars, (but we also) have to activate changes in those markets so there are ripple effects,” she explained.  

In Uganda, Kiira Motors Corporation is working with Tondeka Metro, RentCo Africa, and Golden Dragon to produce and deploy 1,030 Buses by mid-2022, 50 of which will be Electric.

The shipping industry also made moves with 200 businesses from across the shipping value chain committing to scaling and commercializing zero-emission shipping vessels and fuels by 2030. They also called on governments to get the right regulations and infrastructure in place to enable a just transition by 2050.

Aviation industry businesses and large corporate customers also announced an update of their Clean Skies for Tomorrow Coalition, whose mission is to accelerate the deployment of sustainable aviation fuels. Now, 80 signatories have committed to boosting the green fuel to 10 per cent of the global jet fuel demand by 2030. 

These ‘green fuels’ are produced from sustainable feedstock such as cooking oil, palm waste oil from animals or plants, and solid waste from homes and businesses, and are very similar in chemistry to traditional fossil jet fuel. If achieved, this will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 60 million tons a year and provide around 300,000 ‘green’ jobs. 

But UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says that governments need to show the necessary ambition on mitigation, adaptation, and finance in a balanced way, and not can’t settle for the “lowest common denominator”. 

“Promises ring hollow when the fossil fuels industry still receives trillions in subsidies, as measured by the IMF. Or when countries are still building coal plants or when carbon is still without a price,” he emphasized. He called on every country, city, company and financial institution to “radically, credibly and verifiably” reduce their emissions and decarbonize their portfolios, starting now.

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