The UN Climate Change Conference - COP26 has come to an end, bringing world leaders, NGOs, activists and climate enthusiasts together in a global-scale climate event. What for some felt like a catastrophic failure, to others represented a successful showcase of the social and business benefits of getting back together after COVID-19. Here Neil Ballinger, head of EMEA at automation parts supplier EU Automation, offers an overview of key takeaways for manufacturers.
Industry is responsible for almost a quarter of global emissions (23 per cent) and represents the second-highest source of emissions after energy generation systems, according to NGO Energy & Climate. At COP26, several decisions have been made to improve the sustainability of different aspects of manufacturing and achieve the net-zero emissions goal.
Supply chains - deforestation and green shipping corridors
Every minute, the world loses and area of forest equivalent to 40 football pitches. Last spring, a report produced by Sustainalytics found that deforestation has massive negative effects on companies, including decreased agricultural yields due to depleted soils and stranded assets.
At COP26, more than a 100 countries signed the Glasgow Leaders' Declaration on Forest and Land Use, which as of today covers 90.94 per cent of global forests, the equivalent of 3,691,510,640 hectares. The agreement sets to conserve forests and other terrestrial ecosystems, promote sustainable agriculture and facilitate deforestation-free trade.
Big world players like Canada, the European Union, Germany and the US further signed The Global Forest Finance Pledge. An unprecedented $12 billion dollar support has been pledged between 2021 and 2025 to support forest-related climate projects. A big part of the funding will support deforestation-free and sustainable agricultural supply chains and their efforts to be more transparent, traceable and fair for smaller stakeholders and local communities.
Another milestone for supply chains at COP26 was the establishment of green shipping corridors, which would create zero-emission maritime routes between two ports. At least six green corridors will be built by the middle of the decade, but signatories hope to scale up activity and create longer corridors.
As part of this project, more than 100 countries also pledged to curb emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that is second only to carbon dioxide in its impact on climate and is also the main fuel used in maritime transport.
Transport - zero emission vehicles and clean aviation
Road transport is the fastest growing sector in terms of pollution, currently accounting for more than 10 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. To reach the goals of the Paris Agreement we need a rapid transition to zero emission vehicles (ZEVs). Aviation is another industry which is expected to grow significantly in the next 30 years. For both sectors, COP26 decisions will ensure a sustainability boost:
The Zero Emission Vehicles Transition Council (ZEVTC), a body of government representatives and ministers, which accounts for more than half of all new cars sold globally, signed a 2022 action plan that combines actions for automotive infrastructure but also for industry work conditions.
The overarching goal of the agreement is to make ZEVs accessible, affordable and sustainable in all regions by 2030. The first step will be launching a taskforce of automotive manufacturers, energy network providers and chargepoint operators to devise solutions for the deployment of light and heavy-duty zero-emission vehicles. Once a plan is in place, stakeholders will reach a consensus on the pace of transition to ZEVs and agree on effective standards and regulations on fuel.
For a successful transition to ZEVs, the move needs to be truly global and consider underdeveloped regions. The ZEVTC implemented Regional Dialogues with developing countries to exchange best practices and offer development assistance in building an effective infrastructure. The new plans will apply to both new vehicles and second-hand markets to ensure a thorough and robust transition.
COP26 also inaugurated the creation of the International Aviation Climate Ambition Coalition, a group that pledged to work towards net zero CO2 emissions by 2050 in aviation. One way to do so is designing hybrid and fully electrical aircrafts, a project already initiated by Solutions for Aircraft Electrification Leadership (SAEL).
Manufacturing - 5G and green technologies
In preparation for COP26, Mobile UK, the trade association of the UK's mobile network operators, commissioned a report called "5G's Crucial Role in the Race to Combat Climate Change: How 5G will help lay the path to net zero". The report found that mobile technologies and 5G will bring significant improvements in many sectors, bringing the world closer to the net zero dream. For example, in agriculture connected drones and sensors could reduce emissions by 1 MtCO2e.
In manufacturing, 5G technology could help the combined manufacturing sectors of all G7 nations reduce their total emissions by 1 per cent between 2020-2035. While 1 per cent might not seem like a lot, it is actually the equivalent of 182 MtCO2e or around 75 per cent of the annual carbon emissions of France.
5G technology can connect up to 50,000 devices actuators and sensors to a network per cell, an important improvement to ensure reliable connectivity, which is crucial for powering IoT devices. These devices will be used to power the smart factories of the future and lead the path to the net zero goal.
To be successful, green manufacturing needs to be implanted worldwide, not just in developed countries. At COP26, several nations, including Germany, Spain, Japan and Korea, pledged funding to the UN Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) which will help developing countries access green technologies, as well as train skilled workers to use and maintain the machines.
Nevertheless, COP26 lacked a solid discussion on manufacturing and plans to make the overall industry greener. As a global distributor of automation parts, EU Automation would have liked to see more concrete plans on how to support manufacturers who plan to implement green technologies, particularly for SMEs.
COP26 presented both opportunities for sustainable development and room for improvement. In manufacturing, it made progress towards developing value chains and decarbonise transport, but fell short on discussing support to implement potential technologies that will sustain the move to net-zero.
The ultimate success of COP26 depends on the will of every nation and organisation to fulfil its part of the bargain. Despite some shortfalls, the event succeeded in bringing forward once again the single most pressing issue of our society - climate change. It is now up to each of us to contribute to the climate fight.
To learn more about EU Automation's involvement in mitigating climate change, including our support for refurbished and obsolete automation parts, check out the EU Automation website.