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Effective Climate Action by the Freight Transport Industry

Momentum is building. From one UN Climate Change Conference to the next – COP21 in Paris to COP26 in Glasgow – we’re accelerating on the path to a clean and sustainable future. Discover some of the key highlights and latest developments for businesses and investors in every industry, including the transport sector.

More than ever before, the freight transport industry has recognized the need for effective climate action. At the recent UN Climate Change Conference, COP26, in Glasgow (Oct/Nov 2021), nations and companies made a broad range of commitments to do better for the planet across all sectors.  

Signaling a fundamental shift for the car market, 30 countries and several corporates agreed to accelerate the transition to 100% zero emission cars and vans by 2040. For truck and bus sales, 15 countries, sub-national governments, and corporates backed an ambitious target of 100% zero emission vehicles by 2040. In aviation, 18 nations representing 40% of aviation emissions pledged to achieve 1.5 °C goals, and 60 companies committed to 10% sustainable aviation fuel by 2030. In shipping, 19 countries backed the decision to develop net zero shipping routes. 

There were, of course, many other overarching pledges which show the industry’s commitment to effective climate action. You can find out more from a recent webinar by DHL Global Forwarding: 'Transport Sector Decarbonization – What’s Next?'

Getting From Paris to Glasgow

All the achievements in Glasgow came from the Paris Agreement, the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate change agreement adopted at the UN Climate Change Conference, COP21, in Paris (Dec 2015). Leaders from nearly 200 nations agreed on a framework to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C. The agreement also aimed to strengthen countries’ ability to deal with the impacts of climate change and support them in these efforts.

This set the scene for countries to update their emissions targets on a regular basis, and to support developing nations (to skip the ‘dirty phase of development’) and vulnerable nations (to adapt to climate change). Most importantly, the Paris Agreement gave businesses and investors certainty that the global economy is on firm path towards a clean and sustainable future.

Progress After COP21

Meaningful progress was made after COP21 in Paris. Countries submitted their plans for climate action, known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs). In addition, more than 700 cities in more than 50 countries pledged to cut their emissions in half by the end of the decade and reach net zero by 2050. About a third of the global banking sector agreed to align their work with the Paris Agreement. And more than one-fifth of the world’s largest companies have now set net zero emissions targets – not just because it’s the right thing to do for the environment, but also in many cases because it makes sense for their bottom line. 

So, What Happened at COP26?

A new agreement was reached at COP26 – the Glasgow Climate Pact – which features:

  • An agreement to re-visit emission reduction plans in 2022, trying to keep the 1.5 °C Paris Agreement target achievable
  • The first-ever inclusion of a commitment to limit ("phase down") the use of coal
  • A commitment to climate finance for developing countries

Reactions to this have been mixed. According to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres: “The outcome of COP26 is a compromise. It reflects the interests, the contradictions and the state of political will in the world today. It is an important step, but it is not enough.”

Many others see COP26 as successful, particularly for mentioning coal for the first time as a major climate change culprit and calling for reduced investment in "inefficient fossil fuels." Crucially, the conference of 197 countries also resulted in the conclusion of the so-called Paris rulebook, the implementation rules to the 2015 Paris Agreement which – in terms of carbon markets and measuring and reporting emissions – countries could never agree on previously.

Did Anyone Take Things Further?

Many countries went further than the Glasgow Climate Pact: 

  • 140 countries committed to net zero (with different target years)
  • 130 countries promised to stop and reverse deforestation by the end of 2030 
  • 100 countries signed the Global Methane Pledge and agreed to collectively slash methane emissions by 30% by 2030
  • 40 countries pledged to shift away from coal

If all these big pledges are kept, the planet is on course for warming of 1.8°C, according to the International Energy Agency, which is an improvement but still not safe.

Private Sector Commitments

COP26 triggered multiple commitments and pledges from the private sector too. Some of the biggest businesses on this planet have agreed to help create a market for the technologies we need to transition to clean energy. The private sector is clearly ready to play its part and to work with governments to find ways forward.

Many excellent initiatives, enthusiastic conversations, and new partnerships are emerging since COP26. It’s important that all parties follow through to turn pledges into reality and to think about doing even more.

For us at DHL Global Forwarding this means further improving our GoGreen Plus offerings. We are also continuing our engagement in industry initiatives and shaping industry standards on an ongoing basis so all parties can create carbon neutral supply chains.  

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