Decarbonising transport sector refers to the process of reducing or eliminating carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector. Read here to know more about India’s strategy to tackle decarbonisation of the transport sector.
The transportation sector is a significant contributor to global carbon emissions, primarily through the burning of fossil fuels in vehicles, planes, ships, and trains.
NITI Aayog recently released the “Towards Decarbonising Transport 2023: A Stocktake on Sectoral Ambition in G20” report.
In light of India’s G20 presidency in 2023, and with emerging economies at the helm of the intergovernmental forum in 2022 (Indonesia) and 2024 (Brazil), this report seeks to support global discussions surrounding sustainable transport and the effort to achieve the goals stipulated in international climate accords, especially the Paris Agreement and the Glasgow Declaration.
Decarbonising transport sector
The need to decarbonise the transport sector has gained considerable attention in recent years in government, business, and civil society.
- Since 2018, nations around the world have significantly ramped up their commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
- At the COP26 in 2021, over 100 national governments, states, cities, and major corporations signed the Glasgow Declaration, which pledges to accelerate the transition to 100% zero-emission cars and vans.
- The number of countries with net-zero pledges and transport-related NDC targets is rising.
The dominant role played by fossil fuels remains unchanged, and transport emissions continue to rise worldwide.
Reducing transport emissions has remained one of the toughest battles locally as well as globally and is turning out to be a “hard to abate” sector.
- 41% of second-generation NDCs contain transport targets (either transport GHG mitigation targets and/or non-GHG targets for transport).
- Among G20 countries, Japan was the only country to set a quantitative GHG emissions target for the transport sector (46% below 2013 levels by 2030).
- In Europe, the EU sets emission targets for road transport that all EU member states have to follow: by 2030 emissions per kilometer for new road vehicles must be reduced between 31% (vans) and 37.5% (passenger cars) from 2021 levels. In the case of new large lorries, CO₂ emissions per kilometer have to be reduced on average by 30% from 2019–2020 levels.
- Canada established a requirement of 100% zero-emission vehicle sales by 2035.
- China plans that by 2030 40% of all new vehicles will be powered by clean energy and the carbon emission intensity of railways will have fallen 10% relative to 2020 levels
Strategies for Decarbonising transport
To achieve decarbonization in the transport sector, various strategies and technologies can be employed. Some potential approaches include:
- Electric Vehicles (EVs): Encouraging the adoption of electric vehicles is a key strategy to reduce emissions from road transport. This involves improving EV charging infrastructure, providing incentives for EV purchases, and promoting the development of more affordable and efficient EV models.
- Alternative Fuels: Expanding the use of alternative fuels, such as biofuels, hydrogen, and synthetic fuels, can help decarbonize various modes of transport, including aviation, shipping, and heavy-duty vehicles.
- Public Transport and Active Mobility: Investing in and promoting public transport systems and non-motorized modes of transport, such as walking and cycling, can help reduce the reliance on private cars and lower overall emissions.
- Energy Efficiency: Implementing measures to improve the energy efficiency of vehicles, including the adoption of lightweight materials, aerodynamics, and advanced propulsion systems, can contribute to emission reductions.
- Infrastructure Upgrades: Upgrading infrastructure to support sustainable transport, such as building dedicated cycling lanes, expanding public transport networks, and integrating smart transportation systems, can lead to more efficient and eco-friendly mobility.
- Regulations and Incentives: Implementing regulations and providing financial incentives to encourage the purchase of low-emission vehicles, reward energy-efficient transportation practices, and penalize high-emission practices can drive behavior change.
- Renewable Energy: Integrating renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, into transportation infrastructure and operations can further reduce the carbon footprint of the transport sector.
- International Collaboration: Collaborating with other countries and international organizations on research, development, and implementation of decarbonization technologies and policies can lead to more effective global solutions.
the journey to a decarbonised transport sector will be far from easy, not least because the world community is already facing enormous challenges.
- The Covid-19 pandemic is still a serious threat in various parts of the world.
- And the war in Ukraine has triggered a crisis marked by increased geopolitical tensions, supply chain disruptions, spiraling energy prices, and rising inflation.
- The need to address multiple crises simultaneously will be the rule rather than the exception in the coming years.
- The climate crisis is intensifying and will become increasingly severe and given transport’s status as the sector with the second largest emissions, the decarbonisation of transport is essential to avert the worst effects of climate change.
Government initiatives to decarbonise transport
India’s Long-Term Low-Carbon Development Strategy includes improved fuel efficiency, a phased transition to cleaner fuels, the modal shift towards public and less polluting modes of transport, electrification across multiple modes, demand-side management, traffic management, and intelligent transport systems.
Some initiatives by the government are:
- Bharat Stage VI Emission Standards
- Forum for Decarbonising Transport in India by NITI Aayog
- FAME India (part of the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan)
- Vehicle scrappage policy
- Comprehensive package for electric vehicles
- Making Indian Railways net-zero by 2030
- Mission Life 2022–23 to nudge individuals, communities, and institutions to practice environmentally friendly actions such as the use of public transport, ride-sharing and use of bicycles, electric vehicles and vehicles running on clean fuels.
It’s essential to recognize that decarbonizing transport is a complex and multifaceted endeavor that requires coordinated efforts from governments, industries, and individuals.
Specific strategies and actions to achieve decarbonization will vary based on a country’s energy mix, technological capabilities, and transportation needs.
As we move forward and beyond, the focus on decarbonizing transport is likely to continue to gain importance as part of broader efforts to combat climate change and achieve sustainable development goals.
G20 countries can and should take the lead in moving towards a climate-neutral transport sector.
G20 countries are responsible for the lion’s share of global transport emissions. Furthermore, they are also in the best position to encourage change, given their political and economic influence.
- COP26: UN Climate Change Conference 2021
- CCUS: Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage Policy
- Decarbonizing Iron and Steel Sector
-Article by Swathi Satish