COP 26 Transport Related Commitments — On the path towards Transport Decarbonization
The COP 26 that ran from Oct, 31 to Nov,12 2021 saw a number of commitments being made that were directly or indirectly relevant for the transport sector. The table below lists 18 such commitments. Signatories of, or participants, in these global agreements, included national governments, sub national governments, regional governments, individual organisations as well as companies. These combined commitments, through their diverse transport sub-sector orientation, present a considerable potential to transform the Transport sector and its contribution towards towards full decarbonisation of the global economy.
Table 1: List of Transport relevant COP26 Commitments
Typology of Commitments
The commitments include shifting fuel technologies, encouraging sustainable transport modes, and general transport sector decarbonization. It is encouraging to see that all major transport subsectors were covered by commitments and that both passenger and freight transport were covered. Out of the 18 recorded commitments, 4 are for Road Transport, 4 for Climate Change/ General Transport, and 4 for Power/ Fuel. The other commitments include freight sub sector, active transport, aviation, shipping, and tourism.
Transport represents nearly one third of the total final energy consumption, globally. Energy demand for transport is growing much faster compared to the other sectors. The transport sector relies heavily on fossil fuels and till now has by far the lowest share of renewables among end-use sectors. (Source: REN21, 2020, Renewable Energy Pathways in Road Transport, https://www.ren21.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/REN21_FIA-Fdn_Renewable-Energy-Pathways_FINAL.pdf)
The direct transport relevant commitments focus on Zero Emission Vehicles — ZEVs (Road Transport) with target years spanning from 2030 to 2050, and sustainable aviation and shipping fuels. Successful implementation of these commitments would directly result in lowering CO2 emissions in the transport sector.
The indirect transport relevant commitments have a focus on decarbonizing the power and fuel sector in general, whereby it is assumed that the availability of cleaner fuels and power will benefit the decarbonization of individual sectors, including the transport sector, that rely heavily on power and fuels.
Several commitments like the ‘High Ambition Coalition COP 26 Leaders’ Statement’, ‘Statement on International Public Support for the Clean Energy Transition’, and ‘COP26 World Leaders Summit- Statement on The Breakthrough Agenda’ among others focus on halting investments in new unabated coal-fired power plants, phasing out unabated coal-fired power plants, halting inefficient fossil fuel subsidies and many such policy actions with an underlying strategy for a socially just and equitable global transition. And the more effective these transitions are, smoother and easier would be the transition for the transport sector towards decarbonization.
Neither the direct or indirect transport relevant commitments are silver bullets. For example, the commitments on electrification of different vehicle types demand continued research efforts and an efficient policy framework in place, as also sufficiently quoted in the declaration texts. These commitments also involve stakeholder engagements and reporting mechanisms and sharing knowledge, underpinning the need for a global responsibility on the issue of climate change.
The signatory lists reflect an over representation of developed, especially European countries and only a minor representation of Asian Pacific countries. But given the cascading effect of the knowledge and technology that is expected to occur, it is understood that the impact of these commitments would also be felt in the Asia-Pacific region in the years to come.
Of the 51 economies in the Asia Pacific region, 17 (33%) have supported at least one of the 18 commitments. New Zealand, Australia, and Japan have the highest frequency.
New Zealand has committed to all the 4 Power/ Fuel sector, 3 Road Transport, Aviation and Shipping commitments. The country’s ambition levels for the transport sector are thus quite evident. Similarly, Australia has also signed up the Road Transport, Shipping, Power and Hydrogen related commitments. Japan signed up for the aviation, shipping, road transport, power and hydrogen commitments.
Generally speaking, the developing country members in Asia and the Pacific have a lesser representation; whereas, the developed countries in the region have a fair share. South East Asia, and Central Asia regions are represented only in a minor manner. Small Islands Developing States in the Pacific have also made a few commitments, mostly as signatories to the ‘High Ambition Coalition COP 26 Leaders’ Statement’.
Figure 1: List of ATO Members and number of commitments made
In addition to the national governments, there were also a considerable number of companies, and individual organizations registered as participants in, or signatories to a number of commitments. This highlights the growing realization that effective climate action is a shared responsibility.
The role of governments (national/ subnational/ regional) in the commitments focus on setting targets and policies and in some cases that of facilitator. Companies (e.g. automotive manufacturers, fleet owners and operators or shared mobility platforms) commit their production and operating processes to realize targets, while investors and other financial institutions commit to provide financial support. The role of organizations is mostly that of a knowledge partner.
In conclusion, it can be said that these commitments have a transformational potential for the transport sector if successfully implemented with equitable support and just transition.