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General Motors, Ford pledge at COP26 to sell only zero-emissions cars by 2040

Volvo, Jaguar Land Rover and Mercedes-Benz also signed on to the agreement.

Chevrolet Bolt EV charging port
A big promise from Ford and GM.
General Motors

Two of the US' Big Three automakers on Wednesday signed a major pledge at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change conference, or COP26. General Motors and Ford agreed to the Glasgow Accord on Zero Emissions Vehicles, which calls for automakers to only sell zero-emissions vehicles by 2040. Volvo, Jaguar Land Rover and Mercedes-Benz also signed onto the pledge. The pledge calls to phase out tailpipe emissions from new vehicles in "leading markets" by 2035.

GM has made its stance clear on this issue, announcing earlier this year its aspiration to only sell vehicles with zero tailpipe emissions by 2040. This accord marks a larger commitment to the goal, however. The pledge specifically says automakers "will work towards reaching 100% zero emission new car and van sales in leading markets by 2035 or earlier." By 2040, the goal is to transition fully to zero-emissions. 

The pledge also includes numerous countries, territories and fleet operators. Canada and India headline the agreement between nations and will "work towards all sales of new cars and vans being zero emissions globally by 2040, and by no later than 2035 in leading markets."

Even so, the specific automaker commitments alone would make up one-third of vehicles sold today, should OEMs follow through on the pledge.

The US did not sign onto this specific pledge, though the states of California and Washington did. President Joe Biden previously called for at least half of new car sales in the US to be zero-emissions, however, by the end of this decade. The Biden administration scored one victory with billions of dollars for the EV sector and associated infrastructure in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, but grander changes await with the Build Back Better bill that remains stuck in congress. If passed, it would overhaul the tax credit incentives for purchasing an EV with up to $12,500 available.