Emission Reduction Potential in the Transport Sector by 2030

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The objective of this study is to determine the magnitude of mitigation possible in the transport sector by 2030 considering low carbon policies investigated for implementation or proposed to be implemented or in individual countries. This study is the first known attempt to compare different transport related INDC scenarios against the IEA 2DS, which is generally recognized as a reference scenario for low carbon development within the transport sector. The report assesses a BAU scenario, as well as two hypothetical variants of LCS (average and aggressive) based on available mitigation potential studies, and three different variations of INDC transport related targets.

From 1990-2010 the transport sector was the largest energy consuming sector in 40% of countries worldwide, and in most remaining countries, transport was found to be the second largest energy consuming sector. In 2010, transport emission share in total economy-wide emissions in low, middle and high income countries were 3%, 8% and 22%, respectively. The average emission intensity of transport CO2 emissions relative to GDP decreased 58% between 1990 and 2010.

Under a Business as Usual Scenario, a continuation of current transport activity trends without low carbon policy interventions, could lead to a 55% increase in transport CO2 emissions by 2030 when compared with 2010 levels. Most of the projected transport sector emissions growth would be concentrated in developing countries where emissions are set to grow at a higher intensity (2-4 times) than economy-wide emissions. As countries become richer, the transport emission share in total economy-wide emissions increases. In high-income countries transport CO2 per capita is projected to decrease modestly from 2010 to 2030 (4% reduction); however this is offset by significant increases in middle income countries (125%) and low-income countries (167%).

Transport emissions in 2030 must be below 2010 levels in order to be in line with 2DS scenario. This analysis shows however an emission gap in 2030 of about 3.4 Gt (i.e. a gap of 42%) between BAU and 2DS projections for the 138 countries assessed in this report.

The Low Carbon Scenario developed for this report, on the basis of over 350 global and national level mitigation potential studies shows a growth in transport emissions to 6.2 billion tons of CO2 by 2030, which is equal to a decrease of 24% from the BAU scenario. LCS projections reveal that by 2030, transport emission intensity relative to GDP could decrease by 59%, which is higher when compared to the 46% emission intensity decrease in the BAU scenario (46%). With implementation of the low carbon scenario, the BAU emission gap of 3.4 billion tons relative to 2DS (41%) could be reduced to about 1.5 billion tons of CO2 (a 23% gap).

Investigations carried out by various institutions point to an economy wide emission gap of 11-16 billion tons of CO2 between 2030 economy wide targets in INDCs submitted to the UNFCCC an economy wide 2DS scenario. Only about 10% of INDCs have proposed a transport sector emission reduction target and about 9% and 15% of INDCs, respectively, include estimates of country-level BAU projections and transport mitigation potential estimates. Out of three approaches used in this analysis to compare derived INDC transport targets only in one case such a INDC related transport target would be close to the 2DS scenario and this is judged to be the least realistic of the three approaches.

The analysis concludes that based on current emission trajectories, expected LCS projections and actual transport emission targets, that the mitigation ambition in current INDCs will not be sufficient to achieve a 2DS within the transport sector by 2030.

The outcome of the analysis is cause for concern. If the scenarios described in this document would materialize it means that the transport sector would be not well placed in terms of making its long term (2050 and 2100) contribution to the 2DS. Investments would have been made up to 2030 that would lock in emission patterns that, at least for the medium term, are not compatible with the 2DS. This will require in the short and medium much deeper reductions from other sectors which may not be possible or cost effective, thus substantially increasing the difficulty of an economy wide transitioning to a 2DS pathway.

To address the emission gap low carbon policies (incorporating ‘Avoid,’ ‘Shift,’ and ‘Improve’ strategies) must be scaled up and accelerated to approach a 2DS within the transport sector (e.g. Manage the demand for travel through land-use planning and pricing; promote modal shift to low(er) carbon transport modes; implementing strict fuel economy standards and pricing to leapfrog technologies; promoting electrification and renewables in road transport.

Such a more forceful implementation of low carbon policies (both in scope and intensity), would position the transport sector better to reach 2DS requirements, if not by 2030 then beyond.

The full version of the report is available: Emission Reduction Potential in the Transport Sector by 2030