The Partnership on Sustainable, Low Carbon Transport (SLoCaT) has recently published a new report, “Intended Nationally-Determined Contributions (INDCs) Offer Opportunities for Ambitious Action on Transport and Climate Change” to assess the role of the transport sector in mitigation and adaptation in recently submitted INDCs to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Intended Nationally-Determined Contributions (INDCs) represent a unique opportunity to increase bold mitigation and adaptation measures in transport and other sectors, as for the first time, UNFCCC countries are communicating their commitment to reduce emissions and increase resilience on sectorial scales in the context of the UNFCCC system.
The report finds that among the 133 INDCs representing 160 countries that were submitted as of November 12, 2015, 77% explicitly identify the transport sector as a mitigation source, and more than 61% of INDCs propose transport sector specific mitigation measures. In addition, 10% of INDCs include a transport sector emission reduction target, and 14% of INDCs include assessments of country-level transport mitigation potential.
Among the 200+ transport measures proposed in the INDCs there is a strong bias passenger transport, which is included in 89% of INDCs identifying specific transport modes. Among these, urban transport measures are mentioned in 86% of INDCs, while strategies such as high-speed rail (2%), and walking and cycling (12%) have received relatively less attention (Figure 1). While Freight contributes about 40% of CO2 emissions it is mentioned in only 31% of the INDCs that propose transport measures.
In high-income countries, nearly 60% of mitigation strategies are directly related to fuel efficiency improvement or decarbonizing fuel, while in middle- and low-income countries, mitigation strategies are relatively more balanced, with strategies directly related to fuel efficiency improvement or decarbonizing fuel contributing less than 40% of mitigation strategies. While fuel economy standards and e-mobility are prioritized in high-income countries, middle and low-income countries rely more heavily on public transport improvements, which account for about a quarter of planned mitigation measures.
Further, low and middle-income countries tend to prioritize import restrictions based on vehicle age (e.g. Gabon) along with instruments to improve fleet fuel efficiency (e.g. eco-driving in Cambodia, fuel efficient vehicle incentives in Grenada and Cameroon). Middle-income countries also prioritize improvement in inspection and maintenance, fuel quality and vehicle emission standards, which could provide significant reductions in air pollutants. In addition, proposed green freight measures involve shifting from road to railways and waterways.
For adaptation, although it has generally received less attention than mitigation, it is mentioned in an economy-wide scope in the submitted 133 INDCs. The transport sector is mentioned in general terms among climate adaptation measures in 17% of INDCs, and 5% of countries identify transport-specific adaptation strategies, which focus mainly on vulnerability assessments and infrastructure resilience planning (Table 1):
Adaptation in the transport sector is necessary for both developed and developing countries, as transport systems worldwide are vulnerable to increasing impacts of extreme weather, and rapid urbanization and motorization increase the potential for catastrophic impacts. Sustainable transport systems must adapt to climate change to maintain reliability and increase ridership, and thus to achieve full mitigation potential. However, adaptation is generally less well represented than mitigation in the transport sector, as shown in Figure 3.
As transport adaptation measures generally contain less detail than mitigation measures in INDCs submitted, this reflects a similar prioritization of adaptation relative to mitigation at an economy-wide level.
Raising the profile of transport adaptation measures in the detailed implementation plans of current INDCs (as well as in future iterations of INDCs) can help to ensure the long-term success of mitigation investments, which can be achieved by incorporating in INDCs a growing number of transport adaptation and resilience efforts currently underway at national and regional levels.
In summary, INDCs represent a unique opportunity to increase bold mitigation and adaptation measures in transport and other sectors, as for the first time in history, countries are communicating their intended actions to reduce emissions and increase resilience on sectorial scales in the context of the UNFCCC system. Maximizing national mitigation actions will require optimizing contributions from transport in existing INDCs through mechanisms to increase mitigation ambition in successive evaluation periods.
The full version of the report is available here.
For further reading on mitigation and transport, another study by the SLoCaT partnership, “Emission Reduction Potential in the Transport Sector by 2030”, provides a quantitative and qualitative assessment of mitigation potentials in the transport sector through to 2030.
For further reading on adaptation and transport, another study by the SLoCaT Partnership, “Expanding Efforts on Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience in the Transport Sector,” provides an overview of the rapidly growing knowledge base on adaptation to climate change in the transport sector.