COP26 Glasgow 2021

COP26 Glasgow 2021

After months of build-up, planning and speculation, the two weeks of COP26, the major global climate conference in Glasgow, have now passed. So now is a good time to look at what the attendees, including various world leaders, achieved. And what it all means for fleets and company drivers. 


To answer those questions, it’s worth going back several years to an earlier COP, COP21 in Paris, where the current international framework for tackling climate change was established. Out of that conference came the Paris Agreement; a legally binding commitment to limit global warming to within 2℃ – or, ideally, within 1.5℃ – of pre-industrial temperatures in the decades ahead. Almost 200 countries signed up to this agreement and then began making their own plans to reduce emissions so these overall targets could be met. 


The Paris Agreement has hovered over all the COPs since, but its presence was felt especially heavily in Glasgow - and not just because the official hosts, the UK


Government, had dedicated the occasion to “keeping 1.5℃ alive”, but also with the recent publication of the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report heralding the climate situation as a ‘code red for humanity’. This year’s COP was seen as a pivotal opportunity for countries to update and strengthen their plans for reducing emissions in line with the Agreement’s goals. 


To some extent, this happened. Just over 150 countries produced updated plans, known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs), ahead of COP26 – including (crucially) the world’s biggest emitter of carbon, China. 


But a number of countries didn’t – including (again crucially) India, which as a fast-industrialising nation is still heavily dependent on fossil fuels. India subsequently pieced together an updated NDC while at the conference, but this was judged to be “short on details” by the Climate Action Tracker, among others.


Various measures were also agreed between governments during the conference. Most of these were enshrined within the Glasgow Climate Pact that emerged on the final day, and included a faster timetable for revising and strengthening NDCs. Instead of waiting every five years, countries’ NDCs will now come under the spotlight at next year’s COP and in 2023. The hope is that this will force everyone to be more ambitious. 


But was all of this enough? According to Alok Sharma, the Government minister presiding over COP26, the conference “keeps 1.5℃ within reach”. But others aren’t so sure. Individual NDCs, including China’s, have been criticised for not being ambitious enough. The same accusation has been levelled at the Glasgow Climate Pact, particularly after a commitment to “phase out” coal was diluted to “phase down” at the behest of the Indian and Chinese delegations.


In fact, Climate Action Tracker still anticipates that, under current policies, warming will reach 2.7℃ before the end of this century. 


What does all this high-level wrangling mean for fleets? Quite a lot, actually. According to the International Energy Agency, transport is responsible for almost a quarter of all direct CO2 emissions from fuel combustion – with road transport accounting for almost three-quarters of that. Since the Kyoto Summit in 1998, all industry sectors should be tackling their CO2 emissions, and while most industries reduced these emissions by an average of 40%, the transport sector has only managed to reduce emissions by around 6% during the same period. But, thanks to the development of electric vehicles, road transport has become one of the easiest sectors to decarbonise. To help reach 1.5℃, then the transition to electric motoring is absolutely crucial. The earlier fleets transition to electric vehicles (EVs), the greater the reduction in their CO2 output will be. 


Hence the COP26 schedule included an entire day devoted to transport. This involved discussions on everything from aviation to shipping, but the major developments concerned EVs. Various national governments, city governments, organisations, and vehicle manufacturers, including Ford and Mercedes-Benz, signed a declaration on “accelerating the transition to 100% zero-emission cars and vans” , which included the commitment to “work towards all sales of new cars and vans being zero-emission… globally by 2040 and by no later than 2035 in leading markets”. 


Although the deal is significant, it is not legally binding, so doesn’t guarantee anything. There are also several significant absentees from the list of signatories, including China, the US and Germany, and manufacturers such as Volkswagen and BMW. However, since Theresa May’s Government pledged to ban the sale of new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans in the UK by 2040, the UK has brought forward its deadline to 2030 (or to 2035 for certain hybrids). Judging by the COP26 declaration, other countries around the world intend to follow suit. 


What’s more, the inclusion of big manufacturers sends an equally big message: even if governments don’t force motorists to drive electric, fewer and fewer fossil-fuelled vehicles will be coming off production lines in the years ahead. 


Not only is electrification good for the environment – and essential for helping to meet the 1.5℃ target – but, thanks to supportive benefit-in-kind taxation and other government incentives for infrastructure and investment, there can be real financial advantages for both employers and employees who make the transition now. 


Our work with partners to prepare and start their fleet’s transition has enabled us to develop ALD Electric, our consultancy-led fleet electrification solution. This offers a holistic “end-to-end” approach to powertrain shift, enabling a smoother transition to electric cars and vans where possible. If you would like to read or hear more about ALD Electric, please click here or send us a message  with any questions you may have. There’s now less than a year to go until COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. We all need to act before then.


About the contributor

Mark Evans

Head of Business Intelligence & Consultancy


Mark has 25 years’ experience in the fleet industry, across operational, sales and consultancy roles. Mark joined ALD Automotive in 2002 and is responsible for the Business Intelligence & Consultancy team who specialise in providing bespoke consultancy and advice in the areas of fleet decarbonisation, electric vehicle adoption, financial modelling and analysis, risk management and light commercial vehicle (LCV) offerings. 

Mark has successfully delivered numerous fleet optimisation projects, helping fleets deliver sustainable and cost effective, decarbonisation strategies.



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