Cicero/amo @ COP26: ‘Transport Day’ through the EU lens

by Daan Cortenbach, Senior Account Executive

For the EU, COP26 is crucial for motivating other countries to match its bold climate ambitions, as well as ensuring a level playing field. With Cicero/amo being on the ground in Glasgow for the duration of COP26, our EU team will be providing tailored updates on the progress being made, and the potential impacts for businesses in the EU, and beyond.

Make sure to also read our updates from week 1 of COP26, when our team had a look at the main outcomes of Finance Day and Energy Day.

Highlights from ‘Transport Day’

Having gotten a taste of the Scottish culture during the Climate Group’s COP26 Reception on Tuesday evening, which featured live Scottish music and a gin tasting, yesterday’s Transport Day started with the early publication of a first draft global climate deal. Speaking to NGOs, corporates and country delegates here in Glasgow, the draft deal has generally been critically received. The deal calls for strengthened climate action by the end of 2022 and is the first to propose an end to fossil fuel subsidies, yet it showcases the lack of political will to act now, with COP26 being viewed as momentum that will not reoccur anytime soon.

On a more positive note, the US and China reached an unexpected deal late on Wednesday in which the two most emitting countries recognised there is a gap between current climate policies and the 1,5 degrees global warming limit agreed in Paris six years ago. Even though both countries did not commit to concrete action, Biden and Xi Jinping could share more information during their virtual bilateral meeting that takes place next week.

However, with “cars” playing quite a central role in Boris Johnson’s “coal, cars, cash and trees” call for action, it is time to take a quick look if Transport Day led to more concrete ambition in terms of pledges to decarbonise vehicle fleets, and transport more broadly.

Internal combustion engine ban dispute

High hope for a pledge that would phase out diesel and petrol cars by 2035 and 2040 for respectively developed and developing countries turned out to be false hope. The global clean car pledge that commits countries to de facto banning the sale of internal combustion engine as of 2040 is seen as the major achievement of the day. However, the announcement that car manufacturing countries like the US, China, Germany and Japan, as well as some of the main car manufactures opted out of the deal clearly killed the good mood. Apart from cars, a small coalition of eleven countries led by the Dutch, together with cities and companies, have signed a pledge to have zero-emission trucking in place by 2040.

Decarbonising aviation and shipping

Transport Day also saw breakthrough in the aviation sector, with a signed declaration that establishes the International Aviation Climate Ambition coalition, which commits to the adoption of an ambitious long-term goal towards net zero CO2 emissions by 2050 in the framework of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Yesterday, US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg came to the COP26 blue zone plenary to speak, announcing the US commits to zero-emissions in the aviation sector by 2050.  

US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg speaking at COP26’s blue zone

Shipping, responsible for roughly 3 percent of global emissions, cannot be neglected on Transport Day. 19 countries pledged to work towards the creation of at least six zero-emission maritime routes by 2025, aiming to create more by 2030. Even though this is far from a comprehensive and global effort, it is at least a start in addressing the emissions from international shipping.

Looking at these pledges, we can confidently conclude that Transport Day broadly tells the same old story of fragmented global climate ambition.

The EU’s take

Where the US has had senior representation at COP26 with appearances of amongst others Biden, Kerry, Obama, Al Gore, Buttigieg, and Pelosi, the EU has been struggling to match this in week 2 of COP26 with only Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans being present after Commission President von der Leyen and heads of states like Merkel and Macron made an appearance in week 1 of COP26.

In terms of actions, Member States have delivered mixed results. A significant loss of credibility for the EU is of course the fact that Germany decided to opt out of the clean car pledge, while it is positive that countries like the Netherlands, Denmark, Finland and Austria are part of the progressive clean-trucking coalition.

Moreover, it is hard for the EU to make new commitments as many ambitious climate policies in the field of transport were already tabled this summer. The ban on the internal combustion engine as part of the clean car pledge is already imminent in the EU as the EU has proposed to ban it by 2035 in the revision of the CO2 performance of standards Regulation. On top of that, the charging infrastructure challenge posed by the clean and electric car and trucking pledges has already been addressed by the EU, with the proposed Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation. The Regulation sets out minimum requirements for EU Member States for the roll-out of charging infrastructure. Finally, the EU is already working towards the development of clean fuels in the aviation and maritime sectors. Despite the limited impact the EU has had at COP26 so far, the EU remains a climate leader in action.

Daan Cortenbach

Senior Account Executive


Sophie-Charlotte Walter

Senior Account Manager