G7 calls for zero emission transport: Five key insights

By Monica Araya, Special Adviser, UN Climate Change High-Level Champions & ClimateWorks Distingished Fellow, Drive Electric Campaign | June 1, 2022

Last week, G7 Climate, Energy and Environment Ministers met in Berlin and produced a Communiqué to signal their priorities in tackling the climate crisis. While the G7’s focus is primarily on global affairs, and not climate specifically, this communiqué matters politically, given the influence these advanced countries have in shaping the global agenda.

Germany leads the G7 process this year and the Summit of Leaders will take place at the end of June in the Bavarian Alps.

Five insights on climate, energy, and road transportation

  1. Citing the IPPC, road transportation electrification is recognized as pivotal to decarbonization

Transportation issues are a new topic in the context of the G7. In light of the large potential of zero emission transportation in decarbonizing the economy this decade, road transportation has won new political space in the global climate agenda. For example, last year, it was one of the sectoral priorities for the COP26 Presidency.

Given that the transport sector accounts for approximately one quarter of global energy-related CO2 emissions, the G7 ministers emphasized that meeting the 1.50C target requires a “swift and substantial reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector by a massive uptake of electrification technology and deep cuts in emissions in the 2020s”.

It highlights the latest IPCC report stating that “electric vehicles powered by low emissions electricity offer the largest decarbonization potential for land-based transport, on a life cycle basis.”

  1. The explicit call for a shift to “zero emission” vehicles sales was unthinkable in the G7 context only a couple of years ago

For the first time, G7 ministers commit to a highly decarbonized road sector by 2030 including language that had been resisted in the past. It says that in this decade, they will significantly “increase the sale, share and uptake of zero emission light duty vehicles, including zero emission public transport and public vehicle fleets.” The reference to zero emissions matters because over the years Japan has contested the use of 100% electric vehicles because their manufacturers, like Toyota and Honda, have traditionally pushed for increased sales of hybrid cars instead of 100% electric vehicles.

The Ministers also call for “accelerating the transition away from new sales of diesel and petrol cars”. This language was unthinkable in Germany in recent years given the German industry’s push to extend the life of the internal combustion engine.  The Greens entering the government’s coalition helps explain the positive shift in the official position of the host country.

  1. The Communiqué references recent initiatives that aim to accelerate electrification this decade

The ministers welcome key international initiatives that have emerged in the last couple of years to accelerate zero emissions transportation.

First, they welcome the “Declaration on accelerating the transition to 100% zero emission cars and vans” which was signed at COP26. The signatories of the ZEV Declaration work towards all sales of new cars and vans being zero emission no later than 2035 in leading markets — and globally by 2040.

Second, they welcome the work of the “Zero Emission Vehicle Transition Council” launched by the UK to bring together Ministers from governments that represent over 50% of the global car market. All countries of the G7 participate in the ZEVTC and the communiqué states they will work with other partners to accelerate the deployment of zero emission vehicles for passengers and freight including exploring ways to support developing countries in making the transition. The addition of freight means the share of heavy zero emission vehicles sales needs to reach 100% no later than 2040 if we are to meet our global climate goals.

Third, they make a reference the “Breakthrough Agenda” that was launched at COP26 focusing on specific sectors. For road transport, the goal is that “zero emission vehicles are the new normal – accessible, affordable and sustainable in all regions by 2030.”

Forth, they also reference the Marrakesh Partnership’s sectoral work. Its Transport Pathway is consistent with the ZEV Declaration mentioned above (100% zero emission vehicles by 2035 in leading markets, and globally by 2040). It includes 100% ZEV sales in leading markets for buses by 2030 and heavy duty-vehicles by 2040.

The pathway also sets interim goals for 2030: leading markets should aim to achieve zero carbon for 75% of new light-duty vehicle sales and 40% of new truck sales. It includes further goals: 30% of freight should be transported by rail and high-speed passenger rail should double by 2030 in leading markets.

  1. Ministers call for mobility solutions that combine electrification with mass transit, modal shift, and city action.

The ministers stressed the need to complement strategies. They call for setting up a goal to significantly increase the share of budgets spent on public transport, railways, shared mobility, cycling and walking while also accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles by funding charging infrastructure. This is a very welcome development of complementing strategies.

These countries will also “intensify our efforts in enhancing the offer of more sustainable and interlinked transport modes in urban and rural areas and supporting inter-modal transport with investment in rail and waterborne infrastructure.”

In addition, the ministers recognize the role of cities “as a laboratory for a future with net zero emissions”, through the development of innovative and sustainable energy solutions based on the key role of renewable energies, sustainable mobility, demand side management and the active participation of energy consumers.

  1. The declaration touches upon on supply chain and minerals that are critical for the zero emissions energy system

On supply chains, ministers call for supply chains that will enable a transition to a clean energy economy in a way that protects the environment, climate, and human rights. They highlight the role of the private sector in advancing the sustainability and resilience of supply chains and reference guidelines from the OECD and the UN on responsible practices and commit to promoting the implementation of such measures. In the context of road transportation, they commit to ambitious action to promote “sustainability and decarbonization along the life cycle of vehicles.”

On minerals, they state that it is essential that “critical mineral supply chains follow the highest possible environmental and human rights standards.” They encourage investment in technologies, processes, and methods that expand sustainable production while improving resource efficiency and circular economy.

More concretely, the G7 will convene discussions to identify how to enhance “collaboration on mineral security” to build secure, responsible, and integrated critical mineral supply chains using international cooperation‚ policy and financial tools.

What comes next? 

The agendas on climate, energy and mobility are being negotiated in the G7 in a more extreme context than the one in Glasgow: the war on Ukraine marks a turning point for the global community. Clearly, renewables and electrification contribute to climate solutions and to peace. But in the short term, public opinion wants governments to deal with short-term actions to tackle high inflation and even food shortages, in some countries.

This agenda is good progress for the G7 as a collective. Germany has moved forward compared to the last G7 summit in the UK. The EU has recommended their 27 countries to do so by 2035 – which has direct consequences for France, Germany, and Italy. The UK and Canada have already done so. Several cities, companies, and countries, including emerging economies, like Chile, have also supported 2035 in the context of the COP26 ZEV declaration mentioned earlier.

While gaps in ambition persist in some countries, the good news is that a global coalition, Drive Electric Campaign, is in place and will continue to press forward, working with stakeholders around the world, making the zero emission transport the new normal.

Discover how you can join the Race to Zero.

 

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