I predicted that COP26 would be a stepping stone not a destination and sadly I was correct. But the UK Presidency deserves credit for reaching a consensus that takes the world nearer to the goal of tackling the climate crisis.
Overall the respected ‘Climate Action Tracker’ calculates that after COP26 we’re on course for a temperature rise between 2.4°C and 2.7°C, compared to a predicted 3.6 °C rise after Paris in 2015. Real progress, around 1.0°C, has been made. But there still remains a 1.0°C gap.
We could have done better, but unfortunately the conclusion was undermined by India and China, particularly in relation to coal. In fact the US-China Joint Glasgow Declaration on Enhancing Climate Action in the 2020s, adopted on the 10 November, used that ‘phase down’ not ‘phase out’ wording in relation to China, effectively sealing the fate of COP26 in relation to fossil fuel elimination. It is always worth reading the small print!
As for transport, good progress was made on accelerating the transition to 100% zero emission road vehicles. Many, but not all, nations committing for example to a ban on the sale of fossil fuel car and vans by 2035 in leading markets and making them the ‘new normal’ by 2030.
There was positive action following the UKTiE letter to Alok Sharma. We encouraged him to ensure COP26 built on the success of the UK led G7 Leaders’ communiqué, in order to embrace an ambitious, strategic and holistic approach to transport decarbonisation, across all the modes, including public transport and active travel, and in particular recognising the need to boost investment, including in new charging and fueling infrastructure.
The COP26 declaration on zero emission vehicles does indeed make a commitment to the need for a wider system transformation, including support for active travel and public transport.
On aviation and shipping whilst there was good progress, with the Clydebank Declaration on Green Shipping Corridors and the International Aviation Climate Ambition Coalition Declaration, there is still a lack of detail. In particular there is no clear decarbonisation pathway for aviation and shipping in the coming decade, essential if we are to keep the global temperature rise to less than 1.5°C.
Which means the EU’s Fit for 55 Package and the UK’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan will continue to set the international pace, in the absence of an overall global plan.
As someone once said, a lot done, a lot to do.
Mark Watts FCILT FRSA is Director of LP Brussels and a former two-term Member of the European Parliament. He has been advising organisations and businesses across the globe on EU transport, energy and environment policy for almost two decades. He has been appointed a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He writes in a personal capacity.