India has joined over 30 other countries in signing a declaration that promises to work towards ensuring that only zero-emission cars and vans are sold by the year 2040.
However, this timeline is meant mainly for the developed country signatories, and is not a legally-binding commitment. Emerging markets like India have only promised to work “intensely towards accelerated proliferation and adoption of zero-emission vehicles”.
The declaration formed a sideshow at the UN climate conference (COP26) currently underway at Glasgow, and is one among the many voluntary initiatives that different sets of countries launch at these meetings.
Road transport accounts for about 10 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and significant reductions from this sector is considered essential to meeting the goal of keeping global temperature rise within 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels.
At the initiative of the UK government, the COP26 host, India has also joined a Zero Emission Vehicle Transition Council that will discuss ways to accelerate the push towards early adoption of zero-emission vehicles.
In the declaration, emerging economies like India called on developed countries to “strengthen collaboration and international support offer to facilitate a global, equitable and just transition” towards zero-emission vehicles.
Some major automobile companies, including Ford, General Motors, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar Land Rover and Volvo, have also signed the declaration, promising to work towards “100 per cent zero emission new car and van sales in leading markets by 2035, or earlier”. However, three of the leading car markets — United States, China and Japan — are not a part of this initiative.
A few years earlier, India had announced that it planned a 100 per cent transition to electric vehicles by the year 2032. Considered an impossible task, the target has since been modified — 30 per cent of all passenger cars and 70 per cent of commercial vehicles are now supposed to become electric by 2030. Introduction of electric two-wheeler and three-wheelers is also being pushed in a big way.
V Sumantran, a mobility expert and author of ‘Faster, Smarter, Greener: The Future of the Car and Urban Mobility’, said India’s decision to sign the zero-emission vehicle declaration showed the right intent and was in line with other efforts being made to reduce emissions.
“This move is well intentioned. We need to earnestly move towards zero-emission vehicles. It is in our interest to do so. We are already moving in that direction. We have articulated a plan to transition 30 per cent of passenger cars and 70 per cent commercial vehicles to electric vehicles by 2030. The declaration at COP26 seems aligned with that. Anything that accelerates this push would be welcome,” Sumantran said.