Taking Stock of COP26 Outcomes and Looking Ahead

by Maruxa Cardama, Secretary General, SLOCAT Partnership

After some very busy months at the SLOCAT Secretariat, we have finally had a moment to reflect on the implications of the UN Climate Change Conference 2021 (COP26) outcomes through the lens of the urgent transition towards sustainable, low carbon transport. We are proud to present to you our SLOCAT Report “COP26 Outcomes for Sustainable, Low Carbon Transport”.

The report identifies key open questions on the implications of various transport-relevant outcomes at COP26. These open questions are intended to help capitalise on the advancements and identify areas requiring further work in the run-up to COP27. The report provides a critical analysis of the transport-relevant content of the Glasgow Climate Pact, the official outcome document of COP26. It also offers a preliminary analysis of the major transport initiatives and commitments that were launched on the occasion of the Conference. With no aspiration of honouring the multitude of transport events that took place – thanks to the impressive mobilisation and engagement of SLOCAT Partners and the wider transport community – last but not least, this report includes summaries of a select number of events.

In many ways, the decarbonisation of transport was more central to COP26 than any COP before. However, there is still much to be done in terms of expanding the scope of discussions to ensure that fundamental issues to the sustainable decarbonisation of transport receive a balanced focus in the UNFCCC arena. Some of these issues include public transport, paratransit, cycling, walking, shared mobility, integrated land use planning, freight transport, clean renewables-based transport electrification, and the transport and health nexus; as well as fossil fuel subsidies and climate finance for transport. The geographic focus of discussions also must expand to address the unique and urgent challenges of transitioning to sustainable, low carbon transport in the Global South.

In order to reach the 1.5°C target of the Paris Agreement and provide equitable access to transport and mobility for all, the urgent transformation of transport is necessary. With the next COP, COP27, taking place next year in Africa, it is as essential as ever to curate balanced sustainable transport decarbonisation discussions towards this transformation. The SLOCAT Secretariat will be building upon the SLOCAT Key Transformations for Sustainable, Low Carbon Land Transport to offer holistic narratives at the service of balanced discussions. This SLOCAT messaging framework articulates the 11 key transformations necessary to enable sustainable, low carbon land transport; especially considering the availability of solutions and the urgency with which action must be taken. Under each of the 11 key transformations, connections with ongoing wider socio-economic transformations towards a sustainable, low carbon future are outlined.

COP26 has shown that global pledges to reduce carbon emissions are currently far from being in line with the 1.5°C target of the Paris Agreement. The upcoming Global Stocktake,  which officially began at COP26, will also assess how much progress has been made not just in raising ambition, but also in terms of implementation of the measures needed to reach Paris Agreement targets. Details of this Global Stocktake process, including how progress will be measured and where sectoral input – including for transport – will be integrated, are critical to ensuring it provides a comprehensive and accurate assessment of global progress towards climate targets. Other critical questions include how to strengthen the linkages between UNFCCC Regional Climate Weeks and the next COPs, in order to enhance the integration of regional considerations into global climate discussions.

This stocktake, along with COP26’s request for Parties to submit more ambitious NDCs by next year – which was central to keeping the Paris Agreement target alive – may provide the impetus needed to raise countries’ ambition enough to get us in line with 1.5°C. However, the question remains if this ambition will turn into action. With transport emissions continuing to rise exponentially, the inclusion of specific transport ambition and measures in Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and Long-Term Strategies (LTS) will be essential to Parties successfully reaching their climate ambition.

The SLOCAT Secretariat will be engaging in the Global Stocktake. We will also regularly update the SLOCAT Report “Climate Strategies for Transport: An Analysis of Nationally Determined Contributions and Long-Term Strategies” as more NDCs and LTS are submitted. Moreover, we will be elaborating additional targeted analysis and recommendations, including with a focus on the 2022 Regional Climate Weeks.

COP26 saw the launch of a record number of commitments and initiatives related to transport , speaking of the increased attention that transport has been gaining at COPs. The preliminary analysis by the SLOCAT Secretariat shows that overall the NDCs of signatory countries are not aligned with the initiatives they have signed up to. Important questions remain  These include, among others, whether countries will revisit their NDCs in 2022 to align ambition with the commitments and initiatives they have signed up to; and support these commitments and initiatives through domestic targets in national policies and regulations. How efforts to expand the number of signatories will unfold and what UNFCCC mechanism will be used to monitor and assess the actual implementation and impact of these commitments over time are equally important open questions.

Overall, the commitments and initiatives that were launched at COP26 presented a notable lack of emphasis on the central role of public transport and walking and cycling  (the main mobility modes of billions of people worldwide) in decarbonising transport and building more equitable societies. Remarks recognising the need to support holistic approaches to transport systems, including active travel, public transport and shared mobility, were added at the last-minute to the UK COP26 Presidency-led Declaration on Accelerating the Transition to 100% Zero Emission Cars and Vans following the strong mobilisation of stakeholders, as well as public statements by some COP Parties. It remains to be seen whether COP Parties and future presidencies will capitalise on this mobilisation, in order to enable systemic approaches to transport transformation across different geographies.

In the run up to COP27, the SLOCAT Secretariat will further elaborate our preliminary analysis of these commitments and initiatives; as well as conceptualise approaches to monitoring their evolution and implementation.

What we do in partnership as a sustainable, low carbon transport community matters. We must work together to capitalise on the progress made at COP26. This means supporting governments and other stakeholders in both increasing ambition for climate action in transport and accelerating progress on implementation. It also means curating accountability mechanisms for ensuring that critical financing flows go to support climate action in transport, particularly in the Global South; as well as continuing to push for the end to fossil fuel subsidies in our sector.

While we await further information on the UK’s programme of activities for its Presidency tenure in 2022, the preparations for the engagement of our community next year at the Regional Climate Weeks, up to COP27 Sharm-El-Sheik and beyond, have already started at the SLOCAT Secretariat. We are doing so in co-creation with our Partners, in the framework of the SLOCAT Task Force for the Transport Community Engagement in UNFCCC and the Five-year Strategy for Engagement it adopted – which in the coming weeks will be supplemented by a 2-year implementation roadmap for 2022-2023.

In parallel, we will continue delivering on our role as official co-focal point for the engagement of the transport sector in the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action, with a view to facilitating its enhancement as a mechanism to bridge action by so-called State and non-State actors for an impactful implementation of the Paris Agreement.

The SLOCAT Partnership on Sustainable, Low Carbon Transport was founded twelve years ago to curate the sustainable, low carbon transport movement and bring its voice into international climate change and sustainability processes. COPs have therefore always been and will continue to be an important venue for our Partnership to power the sustainable, low carbon transport revolution with ambitions, solutions and collaboration.

This is also the moment to acknowledge and applaud the efforts of SLOCAT Partners and many other actors from the wider transport ecosystem in nourishing sustained engagement over the past decade. In the SLOCAT Secretariat we are looking forward to a 2022 marked by the further co-creation with our Partners of SLOCAT knowledge products and advocacy activities to enable the engagement of the sustainable, low carbon transport community in the UNFCCC process.

Picture of Maruxa Cardama

Maruxa Cardama

Maruxa Cardama is the Secretary General of SLOCAT Partnership.

Picture of Maruxa Cardama

Maruxa Cardama

Maruxa Cardama is the Secretary General of SLOCAT Partnership.