Canada, U.K. Among Nations Pledging to Stop Sale of Gas-, Diesel-Powered Vehicles By 2040

Several nations, including the United Kingdom and Canada, are making a major pledge to cut carbon emissions, the Associated Press reported.

Some of the biggest countries in the world pledged that they would work to stop selling gas- and diesel-powered vehicles by 2040. The move also affects the aviation industry, with the nations pledging to reduce emissions from air travel. Other nations that joined Canada and the U.K. are Chile, Denmark, India, Poland, Sweden and Turkey. Some carmakers, including General Motors and Ford, also signed on.

"This welcome move signals that a growing number of countries, automakers and transportation providers are joining the global push for 100 percent zero-emissions electric vehicles," said Jake Schmidt, the senior strategic director for international climate at the New York-based nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council.

However, not all activists and environmental nonprofits are happy with the pledge.

"The world is crying out for strong action to address global aviation emissions. This is not it," said Matt Finch, the U.K. policy manager at Transport & Environment. "We cannot let this declaration detract us from the fact that individual countries should be going further and faster."

While the pledge was signed and announced during COP26, it was not presented as part of the official conference. Campaigners said that these types of side negotiations have been common practice during the conference.

"These types of announcements that countries voluntarily say they're going to do something is not what we need in a climate emergency," Greenpeace Executive Director Jennifer Morgan said. "They have not worked in the past."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Boris COP26
Several nations, including the United Kingdom and Canada, are making a major pledge to cut carbon emissions by working to stop selling gas- and diesel-powered vehicles by 2040. Above, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a press conference on day eleven of the COP26 climate change conference at the SEC on November 10, 2021, in Glasgow, Scotland. Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

The impact of the measures will likely be limited since several major emitters—notably the United States and China—did not sign on.

A group of nations said Wednesday that they would work to sell only zero-emission vehicles by 2040, and no later than 2035 in leading auto markets. While the wording of the agreement is vague, it could essentially mean switching to electric-only fleets of cars, trucks and buses—and backing off popular halfway solutions currently in use, such as hybrid vehicles.

Some companies, such as Volvo, had already pledged to even earlier targets to phase out combustion engines.

Transport and Environment said the announcement needs to be backed by legally binding targets and noted the absence of major car markets such as China, the U.S., Germany and France.

German officials said the country declined to sign the agreement because it contained a footnote that would prevent the use of synthetic fuels produced with renewable energy—an option that some in the current and likely future government want to keep open.

The country has backed a proposal being considered by the European Union to end sales of gasoline-powered cars and vans by 2035.

Transportation is one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the International Energy Agency.

A recent report by the agency found the sale of new internal combustion engine cars—those that run on gasoline and diesel—needs to be phased out by 2035 to ensure the goals set in Paris in 2015 on capping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) can be met.

On aviation, about two dozen countries said they would work together to reduce emissions from plane travel to "net zero" by 2050, including by promoting the use of sustainable fuels. "Net zero" means producing only as many emissions as can be absorbed again through natural or artificial means.

Greenpeace described the declaration—signed by Britain, France, Spain, the United States and others—as "brazen greenwashing."

"They should be reducing flights and massively investing into rail and greener travel options," the environmental group said.

Separately, 20 airlines announced plans to use planes powered with electric, hydrogen or hybrid engines on 30 percent of the fleet used for short-haul flights by 2030.

Among the signatories were Air New Zealand, Alaska Airlines, easyJet and Southern Airways Express, operating more than 800 aircraft with over 177 million passengers a year.

And major maritime industry representatives pushed Wednesday for more funding for research into clean ship propulsion technology.

Achim Steiner, who heads the U.N. Development Program, said promoting clean modes of transport is essential if the world wants to cut emissions in a way that doesn't leave poor nations behind.

China has already put on the road 250 million electric motorcycles, which are particularly attractive to people in developing nations, he noted.

"With solar power off-grid technology, you can run in a village a charging station for electric motorcycles," Steiner told AP.

He also suggested that poor countries should follow the example of Kenya, which has long banned the importing of old vehicles to avoid becoming a dumping ground for rich nations' gas-guzzlers.

Several nations, including the United Kingdom and Canada, are making a major pledge to cut carbon emissions by working to stop selling gas- and diesel-powered vehicles by 2040. Above, cars and trucks move on a highway toward Frankfurt, Germany, on November 5, 2021. AP Photo/Michael Probst, File