Despite all the hype, there was very little in the way of new announcements from the COP26 gathering of world and business leaders in respect to the logistics and transport industry. This should probably not have been unexpected as the power to make changes and set goals in the sea and air industry largely rests with supra-national non-governmental organisations (such as the International Maritime Organisation and the International Civil Aviation Organization). Any progress in these two sectors (or otherwise) is made through these fora, although of course pressure can be brought to bear by influential country members.

Road transport is a different case. Goal-setting is the responsibility of individual governments and this is why there has been a much more fragmented response with countries such as the UK being amongst the most aggressive in its targets. However, even this belies the reality of a global market. The development of alternative fuels and the eco-system required to support them relies on the progress of technology and global investment. Announcements to ban diesel by such-and-such a date at an individual country level are in themselves pointless unless global solutions are in place.

Summarised below are some of the main declarations made relating to the shipping, road and aviation sectors.


At COP, 19 countries agreed to create zero emissions shipping corridors with the aim to achieve at least 6 green corridors by the middle of the decade and to scale up activity in the following years. This will involve addressing barriers, developing regulatory frameworks, information sharing and infrastructure and include voluntary partners such as ports and carriers. The so-called ‘Clydebank Declaration’ does not mean that all ships on these trade lanes will need to be zero emission.  However, it will involve deploying new vessel technologies and putting alternative fuel and charging infrastructure in place in ports to allow for zero emission shipping on key routes across the globe. Few Asian countries have signed up, Japan being the major exception.

Whilst the declaration was largely aspirational and nebulous, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) did come under pressure at the event from governments, including Denmark and the US, to set concrete net-zero targets. The IMO’s goal of reducing GHG by at least 50% by 2050 compared to 2008, however, is not consistent with the COP26 goal of keeping temperature rises to 1.5% by the end of the century. Some commentators believe that this pressure may result in a change of policy as early as later this month at a meeting of its Marine Environmental Protection Committee.


30 countries and 11 automotive companies committed to 100% zero emission car and van sales in leading markets by 2035 and globally by 2040. They said they would work together to make zero emission vehicles the ‘new normal’ by making them accessible, affordable, and sustainable in all regions by 2030 or sooner. A new World Bank trust fund will mobilise $200 million over the next 10 years to decarbonise road transport in emerging markets and developing economies.

15 countries pledged to shift to clean trucks by committing to end the sale of most new diesel trucks by 2040. The UK has gone further. It announced that, ‘The UK will become the first country in the world to commit to phasing out new, non-zero emission heavy goods vehicles weighing 26 tonnes and under by 2035, with all new HGVs sold in the UK to be zero emission by 2040.’ Rather than make any announcement at COP, the EU is to consider a proposal to end new sales of internal combustion engine vehicles by 2035 in the coming months as well as setting targets to limit carbon emissions from heavy duty trucks.


There were pledges from 23 countries to work towards decarbonisation in the aviation sector. However, there were no commitments to specific carbon emissions’ reduction goals. Instead, it was announced that the partners to the declaration would, ‘…advance ambitious actions to reduce aviation CO2 emissions at a rate consistent with efforts to limit the global average temperature increase to 1.5°C’ as well as to ‘…take into account the industry’s commitment to net zero CO2 emissions by 2050’. This will include the development of sustainable aviation fuels.

The declaration committed to support the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) as the appropriate forum to ensure the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) to address aviation emissions. This has not pleased some lobbyists. Matt Finch of environmental organisation ‘Transport & Environment’ asserted: “At a COP dedicated to raising ambition, it’s disappointing that these states continue to rely on the UN’s deeply flawed aviation agency.” He went on to say, “The signatories should follow the UK’s lead and take the essential first step of including their share of aviation emissions in their individual country budgets. Clean aviation will remain grounded so long as states continue to shirk their individual responsibility to act.”


In summary, there was little new to come out of COP26 which will have a material impact on the transport and logistics industry. The regulatory response to global challenges (such as climate change) in the air and sea industry has been ceded to supra-national organisations such as ICAO and IMO. Their decisions, the result of long negotiations taking into account the views and interests of multiple stakeholders, can then be transposed into law by individual members. However, getting agreement amongst so many members is a difficult and long-winded process, a source of considerable frustration to many environmentalists. The alternative, individual countries taking a lead by setting their own targets, may well sound like a more dynamic approach. However, this too is futile if technologies are not sufficiently advanced or no single coordinated approach is adopted globally. It could also leave some countries’ transport and logistics industries considerably disadvantaged which could have a severe economic impact on competitiveness.

The reality is that despite calls for immediate action and the associated rhetoric, the international  nature of the challenges; the multi-lateral structure of supervisory institutions; the immaturity of technology and the need for coordination of a response on a global level will delay the introduction of major changes to the industry for some time. Depending on your view this is either a sensible and reasoned approach or a catastrophic wasted opportunity in the face of the so-called ‘climate emergency’.

Source: Foundation for Future Supply Chain, November 18th, 2021

Author: John Manners-Bell

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