Current and foreseeable policies to mitigate carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions from global transport activity will not suffice to achieve the international community’s climate ambitions, a new study published by the International Transport Forum (ITF) finds.
Continued strong growth in demand for mobility means that even in the most optimistic scenario, transport CO2 emissions in 2050 will still be at 2015 levels of around 7.5 giga-tonnes, according to projections published in the ITF Transport Outlook 2017.
This scenario already assumes that new technologies and changed behaviour lead to significantly less CO2 being emitted in relation to the total distance travelled. In the ITF Transport Outlook’s less optimistic baseline scenario, a doubling of global transport demand will lead to an increase of transport CO2 emissions of 60% between 2015 and 2050.
“We need to both accelerate innovation and make radical policy choices to decarbonise transport”, said ITF Secretary-General José Viegas on the occasion of the launch.
“Technology will provide about 70% of the possible CO2 reductions to 2050. The rest will come from doing things differently, and this is where there is still a lot of potential. We need to think much harder about things like shared mobility, changes in supply chains and even new transport modes.”
A key factor for the difficulty in reducing transport CO2 emissions over the long run is shifting global trade patterns. As trade moves to regions with a lack of rail or waterway infrastructure, greenhouse gas emissions from road freight will almost double. Driven by more trade among the region’s emerging economies, freight transport on intra-Asian routes will grow particularly strongly, by 250% to 2050. Operational measures such as truck-sharing, route optimisation or relaxation of delivery windows to optimise use of transport capacity would help to mitigate the emission increases here.
Urban mobility is another area of concern. Car use in cities is set to double by 2050, as fast-growing emerging economies meet mobility demand. According to the ITF analysis, cities can keep the number of cars constant at the 2015 level if they act now to put in place integrated land-use and transport policies, use pricing to manage mobility patterns and invest in accessibility through public transport.
“With the right policy mix, even fast-growing cities will be in a position provide today’s level of mobility to citizens but in a more sustainable way,” notes Jari Kauppila, Head of Modelling and Statistics at ITF.