How to explain the increase in transport emissions… and what can be done about it?
Greenhouse gas emissions from transport have more than doubled since 1970, and are now the second largest contributor to climate change. This trend shows no sign of slowing down: according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), without aggressive and sustained mitigation policies, transport emissions could increase at a faster rate than any other sector by 2050.
“Tackling transport-related carbon emissions has become an urgent priority in the race against climate change.”
To improve our understanding of this issue, a new research paper from the Office of the Chief Infrastructure Economist – Understanding the decoupling factors of global CO2 emissions from transport from economic growth: Evidence from 145 countries – addresses three important related policy issues.
Have countries succeeded in developing their economies while stabilizing transport emissions?
Ideally, countries should be able to continue their growth while stabilizing and ultimately reducing CO2 emissions from transport. This scenario is known as “decoupling”. Of the 145 countries we studied, only 78 succeeded in decoupling emissions from growth, and only 12 of them experienced reductions in transport emissions.
The vast majority of countries that have achieved decoupling belong to the high income group. In fact, around 70% of high-income countries have achieved decoupling, while over 70% of low- and middle-income countries have yet to do so. Finland, Germany, Japan and Sweden are among the countries that have been most successful in reducing transport-related carbon emissions.
In many developing countries, transport emissions are growing at a much faster rate than GDP growth. Between 1990 and 2018, transport emissions grew six times faster than GDP in Nepal and twice as fast in Nigeria, Iran, Croatia, Guatemala, Iran and Nigeria. and decoupling has only taken place as an unfortunate consequence of dire conflict situations. A few developing countries have observed reductions in transport emissions, but this decline is usually the result of conflict or other major shocks.
Is technology changing fast enough to meet the growing demand for transportation?
The demand for transport in developing countries is increasing rapidly due to a combination of economic and population growth. In India, for example, passenger traffic increased by 25% between 1990 and 2017, while freight volumes increased by 16%. The demand for transportation is expected to continue to increase as populations and economies continue to grow. Without taking into account a possible demand management policy, the main avenue for reducing emissions is innovation, which can significantly reduce the climate impact of each passenger or tonne of freight transported. But overall carbon emissions will only decline to the extent that technological changes outpace the growth in traffic flows.
Two types of technological change are relevant here. The first is that vehicles are switching from carbon-intensive fuels, such as gasoline and diesel, to lower-carbon forms of energy, such as biofuels and electricity. The scale of this transition is still too small to have a noticeable impact in almost all of the countries we studied. A notable exception is Sweden, where the share of non-fossil fuels in transport increased from 3% in 1990 to 24% in 2018. Albania, Finland and Norway have also made significant progress in increasing the share of non-fossil fuels, ranging from less than 1% in 1990 to around 10% in 2018. However, the bottom line is that gasoline and diesel remain the dominant fuels for transport, renewable fuels and electricity representing no more than 10% of the global mix of fuels for transport. from 2018.
The second major development is that vehicle engines are becoming increasingly fuel efficient – thanks to tighter regulations by governments and improved engine designs by manufacturers. This has a more noticeable impact, the energy intensity of transport decreasing on average by 1.4% per year between 2000 and 2018 in the world. Yet despite these encouraging advances, innovation just does not seem to keep pace: improving vehicle fuel efficiency globally has only offset population growth, but has not been fast enough. to compensate for the expansion of GDP per capita (see table).
Source: Understanding the decoupling factors of global CO2 emissions in transport and economic growth: evidence from 145 countries
Why are some countries more successful than others in reducing transport emissions?
Statistical analysis can shed light on the factors that have the greatest impact on emissions. Two types of engines seem to be at play:
Structural factors such as the degree of urbanization and the stage of economic development can significantly affect transport emissions. Oddly enough, as urbanization increases, the intensity of transport emissions increases initially – perhaps due to increased motorization and congestion – but beyond urbanization rates of around 60. %, carbon emissions intensity begins to decline – possibly due to higher urban density and more efficient management of urban traffic systems. Transport emissions will also vary depending on the nature of economic output. Transport emissions are also closely linked to a country’s economic vocation. In general, emissions are higher in agriculture-focused countries. Since these structural factors are not under the immediate control of policy makers, they cannot be used as a lever to influence the trajectory of transport emissions.
Transport policy is an important driver, in particular the price of transport fuels. For example, an increase of one standard deviation in the price of diesel is on average associated with a 3.8% reduction in CO2 emissions from transport per capita. There is also evidence that efficient public transport systems and tighter fuel economy or tailpipe emissions regulations can significantly reduce the climate footprint of transport.
In conclusion, while the intensity of emissions from transport has declined in most countries over the past three decades, economic and population growth has more than offset these reductions. If these trends continue, technology alone will not be enough to cope with the steadily increasing emissions from transport and meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. As powerful as it is, the technology must be combined with more ambitious transport policies, including fuel pricing, fuel change targets, energy efficiency regulations and support for better transport systems. public. Together, these tools will give countries important leverage to decouple economic growth from transport emissions and move towards a greener future.
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World Bank Group published this content on November 29, 2021 and is solely responsible for the information it contains. Distributed by Public, unedited and unmodified, on November 29, 2021 08:50:06 PM UTC.