Transport and Covid-19: responses and resources

COP25 Transport Climate Actions

Scale-up research, production and use of zero-emission fuels.

Alternative fuels are the key to emissions-free transport, electric mobility being the most advanced. In Norway, 46% of all new cars sold in 2018 were electric. Worldwide, 5.1 million electric cars were sold in 2018, up from 3.1 million in 2017. Still, they only make up about 0.5% of the global vehicle stock. Future uptake depends fundamentally on progress with battery technology to increase range, availability of charging infrastructure to reassure users, and ultimately price. The extent to which governments invest, and the range of incentives they put in place, will matter.

It is unlikely that any one new energy source can replace oil for energy intensity. Government policy should act according to different technologies and uses. Electric mobility should be boosted to decarbonise urban traffic, for instance, which would slash emissions and improve air quality. Also, if flights under 1 000 kilometres used electric aircraft, this could save 15% of jet fuel. Hydrogen has advantages for longer ranges and where fast refuelling is necessary, for trucks or maritime transport for instance. Ships are also rediscovering wind power.. The use of biofuels and synthetic fuels should be stepped as they allow conventional engines to run virtually carbon free, if sustainably produced. To boost this sector, Sweden now requires conventional fuels to be blended with biofuels to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of diesel by 21% and of petrol by 4.2% by 2020.

Create conditions that encourage the maximum use of transport capacity.

The average private car is used for just 50 minutes a day and carries 1.4 passengers. Studies show that car sharing can provide the same flexibility as private cars, but with just 10% of the fewer vehicles – or even fewer. That would reduce CO2 emissions from cars by one third without needing to introduce new technology. Because shared vehicles clock more miles, they are replaced more quickly and new low-carbon technologies hit the road faster. Public parking becomes redundant and the space can be used in more eco-friendly ways – for walking and cycling, or less polluting delivery of goods. Importantly, shared mobility services can act as feeders for public transport. The largest CO2 reductions in the transport sector would come from shared electric vehicles.

Moving goods is an ever more important part of transport. The share of freight will grow to nearly 50% of all transport activity by 2050, from just over a third today. Keeping down the associated CO2 emissions will require better use of trucks and ships. Smart logistics solutions can help maximise capacity use – more efficient use of data, for instance, or sharing depots and delivery vans. Also, larger trucks or ships can move more freight with comparatively less energy. Still, care is needed to improve CO2 efficiency along the entire supply chain.

Governments should also strive to bring down costs of rail to make it more competitive, modern and attractive for passengers, particularly on shorter national and transcontinental journeys, in Europe for instance. More investment should be channelled into new railways in developing countries and remote regions.

Set prices to encourage sustainable passenger mobility and freight transport.

Transport relies on fossil fuels for over 94% of its energy. Zero- and low-carbon transport solutions will scale up only if they can compete on price. Road fuels are taxed relatively heavily - but not nearly to an extent that covers the cost of environmental harm. Preferential rates exist, too, for example for fuels used by trucks. Meanwhile international aviation and maritime fuels are not taxed at all.

Price signals are a powerful mechanism to steer citizens and businesses to choose less emitting forms of transport. Carbon prices can be set with different tools, notably direct taxes or emissions trading schemes. Purchase taxes on polluting vehicles and targeted subsidies can also help citizens and businesses buy into sustainable transport. Emissions and congestion charges on vehicles in cities have proved effective. Some have reduced local CO2 emissions by around 15%. But road pricing should be fair and equitable. Revenues should be used in a transparent way and contribute to measures that effectively reduce CO2 emissions Stockholm, for instance, introduced a congestion charge and invested the proceeds to expand its metro network.

Make low-carbon transport the default for public sector decision-making.

Governments should champion low- and zero-carbon transport in their actions and set an example for citizens and businesses. Investing into public transport, promoting walking and cycling, and providing good charging infrastructure are examples where public policy can make low-carbon transport the default and environmental sustainability the benchmark. Integrating transport planning with land-use policy and promoting urban densification will bring jobs, goods and services closer to people and at the same time reduce the need for commuting.

Public procurement provides another lever. Awarding contracts should take into account the carbon footprint of the bids. For instance, the tender for a ferry between Sweden’s capital Stockholm and the island of Gotland included greenhouse gas emissions as a criterion. The winning bid uses Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), resulting in 20% lower CO2 emissions.

Governments operate large vehicle fleets. They should make the purchase of low- or zero-emission vehicles their default policy, which would send a strong political signal, not least to businesses that also have large fleets.

Share knowledge about tested measures that reduce transport emissions.

A single invention to stop global heating will unlikely be found. Doing what is already possible, on all fronts, by everyone, will be the most effective policy approach. More public-private co-operation nationally and internationally is necessary for creating the conditions to introduce and scale decarbonisation measures up as rapidly as possible.

Effective interventions should be further deployed. These include operational measures like the “slow steaming” of freight ships, which reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 19% for a 10% reduction in speed but can yield reductions of up to 60%. Educational measures also work, for instance “eco-driving” training for truck drivers - fuel-efficient driving styles reduce trucks carbon emissions by up to 15%. Design improvements like air lubrication of ship hulls or weight optimisation in aircraft also save CO2. Even streamlined customs procedures cut carbon, if trucks no longer have to inch forward for hours or even days at border points while emitting diesel fumes. Governments and businesses should intensify their work together to create pilot projects and test decarbonisation potential.

Back to ITF at COP25

Share this page