Wednesday was “transport day” at COP26. Transport accounts for a fifth of all global greenhouse gas emissions, and for many people the evolution from internal combustion to electric vehicles will be one of the most visible and easy to comprehend facets of the energy transition. On the topic of electric vehicles, 30 countries and six of the world’s largest car manufacturers have signed up to the COP26 declaration on zero emission cars and vans, to work towards 100 per cent zero emission vehicle sales by 2035 in developed markets, and by 2040 globally. Ford, Mercedes, Volvo and Mercedes-Benz are among the manufacturers to sign up.
19 countries also pledged to establish green shipping ‘corridors’ between two or more ports, in what is being called the “Clydebank Declaration”. Such corridors would run from one participating port to another, and in conjunction with shippers, management companies and vessel owners would work towards decarbonising these shared maritime routes. The aim is for at least 6 of such routes to be running by 2025.
Separately, mega shippers such as Amazon, Ikea, Michelin, and Unilever have announced they will only buy carbon free freight from 2040.
Our global co-head of transport, Christine Ezcutari, attended several sessions, including a session hosted by the Climate Action Solution Centre on the topic of decarbonizing aviation. The discussion took place amongst several industry leaders including Scott Kirby (CEO of United Airline), Chris Raymond (COO of Boeing), Kara Hurst (Head of Worldwide Sustainability at Amazon) and Jennifer Holmgreen (CEO Lanzatech). The consensus was that there is a strong need for investment but also for the right policy developments to support that investment. Safety issues are key and so is the need to think about the supply chain in its entirety, so there are no simple or quick fixes.
Away from transport, a first draft of a COP26 climate deal was published early on Wednesday. In what was akin to a heads of terms, the 7 page document “urges Parties to revisit and strengthen the 2030 targets in their nationally determined contributions, as necessary to align with the Paris Agreement temperature goal by the end of 2022“ and “to at least double their collective provision of climate finance for adaptation.” Notably there was also an explicit reference to the phasing out of coal, the first time a UN climate deal has taken such an unequivocal position on coal.
There was also apparent progress on Article 6. Numerous officials involved in the behind the scenes negotiations said that they were proceeding in a positive and productive spirit. We understand there are differences between the various sides on the big issues of the share of proceeds from trading to go to poorer countries, and the carryover (or not) of Kyoto credits, but nonetheless there is growing confidence that compromises can be made to get a deal over the line before the end of the week.
Our EMEA Head of Sustainability, Caroline May, also participated in a panel session at the Achieving Net Zero event held at the Scottish Parliament yesterday. Panel speakers included Lord Kim Darroch (former British Ambassador to the United States), Berge Brende (President of the World Economic Forum) , Kate Forbes (Member of the Scottish Parliament and Minister for Finance & Economy) and Tony Danker (Director General of the CBI). The speakers noted the drive for innovation and new technologies, including hydrogen, and the success achieved in Scotland in managing the energy transition to date from fossil fuels to renewables. The impetus provided by Global Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) announced last week was seen as pivotal in driving the race to net zero, as was the leading role now being played by the US in promoting an agenda many saw as neglected by the previous administration. The role of the legal profession was discussed, and Caroline spoke of the need for the profession to understand the agenda and its implications for clients in whichever sector they operate. Caroline argued that we need to recognise that in the race to net zero all business and civil society will be affected, and lawyers, as trusted advisers, have a pivotal role in helping to shape policy and legislation and in guiding clients through the commercial implications, business risks and opportunities for their respective sectors.