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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

After the climate agreement is cold, the auto industry is divided on the road to zero emissions

Herbert Diess, CEO of Volkswagen, couldn’t make it clearer.

“Climate change will be the biggest challenge facing mankind in the coming decades,” he declared at the Munich Motor Show in September, as a graph of rising emissions flashed on the big screen behind him.

However, when global automotive leaders gathered at the COP26 summit in Glasgow and pledged to stop selling polluting cars anywhere in the world by 2040, Volkswagen was absent.

It is not alone. Toyota, Stellattis, and Hyundai are among the main manufacturers that avoided the Glasgow deal, which promised automakers to sell zero-emissions new cars in the largest market by 2035 and only in the largest market by 2040.

In the end, only six companies-Ford, General Motors, Daimler, BYD, Volvo Cars and Jaguar Land Rover-signed contracts, a far cry from the expected parade of auto giants.

“What a failure… what an embarrassment. I have almost nothing to say,” Thomas Ingenlath, owner of Volvo’s electric brand Polestar, said of the group that refused to sign.

Disagreements between signatories and non-signatories highlight tensions within the industry. Some auto executives believe that clear goals are essential to help the industry transform, and worry that groups that refuse to sign have proved to be green hypocrites.

The boss of Volvo Cars, Hakan Samuelsson, is the only CEO of a leading automaker to take the stage at the inauguration of the promise. He supports clear, formal goals and says they need to stop The development of internal combustion engines.

Volvo Cars owner Hakan Samuelson
Volvo Cars owner Hakan Samuelsson © Pierre Albouy / Reuters

“Whether it is 2032 or 2035 or at any time, no one wants to develop a product with an end date,” he told the Financial Times.

The Climate Action Group’s condemnation of non-signatory countries has also weakened.

Helen Clarkson from the non-profit organization Climate Group said that the industry’s resistance is “on the wrong side of history”.

But for adherents, binding emission targets beyond their control expose them to promises that may not be fulfilled.

Although some people said privately that they might reach the COP26 goal, they warned that if the declared goal is to be achieved, infrastructure such as charging stations must be in place.

They also emphasized that the government and industry have made major commitments to reduce emissions.

For example, Volkswagen has pledged to spend 35 billion euros on the transition to electric vehicles, and European and Chinese emission regulations are forcing manufacturers to switch from internal combustion engine models.

“We have the same goal, but have a great reputation behind it [signing] It,” said Ralf Pfitzner, Volkswagen’s head of sustainability.

He said that after the 2015 diesel scandal to “rebuild trust”, Volkswagen was found to have deceived consumers and regulators on pollution levels, which meant that the company believed it could not achieve its goals.

“If we can’t sign something convincingly today, then we shouldn’t do it. But in the final analysis, we are implementing, we are pushing electric cars to the streets.”

Despite tremendous pressure from British officials, British investment groups including Toyota, Nissan, Stellatis, BMW and Honda have not been put on the agenda.

Even the proposal of British officials to prohibit non-signatory representatives from entering the “blue zone”-the security review area of ​​COP26, to receive world leaders and journalists failed to win their support.

According to two people who witnessed the negotiations, late concessions, such as providing an opt-out for certain markets or reaching an agreement that would make 90% of vehicles zero-emissions, are of no avail.

However, large automakers are not the only notable absentees from the COP26 manifesto.

China, the world’s largest auto market, and the United States and Germany, the second largest auto market, refused to sign a pledge to eliminate emissions from new cars by 2040.

However, several large cities and regions around the world have supported agreements with climate scientists and automakers, pointing out their key role in switching to electric vehicles.

In the United States, California, New York, and Washington, as well as Dallas, Charleston, Atlanta, and Seattle signed the agreement.

John Rockstrom, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said: “A country with a truly powerful country [or regional] The level of governance will play a very important role in promoting social critical points. “

Daimler President Ola Kallenius, who attended the summit, added that the government and city’s commitment to green transformation is the key, and expressed confidence that automakers will deliver on product development.

“product [manufacturing electric cars] It’s the thing I don’t worry about the least,” he told the Financial Times.

However, even among the supporters of the transaction, there is consensus that the government needs to do more to simplify the transition to electricity through charging stations and the necessary infrastructure to support the zero-emission industry.

Cynthia Williams, Ford’s sustainability boss, was asked what was needed on the stage of the Glasgow gathering and replied: “Infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure.”

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