Study Indicates Lima-Paris Action Agenda Transport Initiatives Could Reduce Global Emissions 3.7 Percent
The Lima-Paris Action Agenda (LPAA), under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), has collected a variety of initiatives to target and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions in all sectors. The transport sector initiatives, also supported by Paris Process on Mobility and Climate, focus on shifting travel to public transport and cycling, fuel efficiency for light-duty vehicles and increasing uptake of electric cars and buses. So far, little information exists about the potential costs and benefits of all of these initiatives. However, a new study from WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, entitled Can Transport Deliver GHG reductions at scale? An analysis of Global Transport Initiatives, fills this gap, shedding light on seven of the transport initiatives in terms of emissions, costs and ambition.
The study finds the initiatives to be very ambitious and would lead to a 3.7 percent reduction in global energy-related emissions by 2050. While the contribution may not be as large as some key sectors (like renewable energy) this represents roughly 10% of the reduction needed through 2050 to remain on track for a 2 degree scenario. The most substantial reductions stem from a shift in mode of travel, largely from private car to public transport. However, the study finds that all of the initiatives can help reduce emissions, as their interconnectivity has potential beyond what any iniative could achieve on its own.
Providing Global Context for Transport Initiatives
The transport sector accounted for nearly a quarter of global energy-related, carbon dioxide emissions in 2011, with a growing trend due to the rapid increase of motorization. In order to combat this trend, the LPAA provides a platform, as part of the UNFCCC, to encourage various state and non-state actors to develop ambitious emissions-reduction initiatives. The initiatives are voluntary and aimed at accelerating action around emissions reduction, and the LPAA platform is an opportunity to provide more visibility for initiatives and help to scale-up their efforts.
The primary goal of most intitiatives is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, targeting technology and behavior changes. However, because many different organizations developed the targets, it can be difficult to understand the potential impact of each initiative with respect to others or as a whole. As a result, WRI, building on previous work with Global Calculator, undertook this study to provide a global context for emissions reduction, cost and level of ambition. Through the analysis, the paper encourages discussion of the seven initiatives: Are they feasible? Are their high levels of ambition necessary? Are there significant gaps or overlaps? Are there interactions that can be leveraged?
Large Emissions Reduction Potential, But Much Effort Is Required
The findings show (summarized in the Figure below) that the largest emissions reduction (up to a 2.42 percent reduction in emissions), could come from mode-shifting initiatives, from cars to either to rail or public transport, but it would require a very high level of effort to achieve, due to major changes in behavior from existing, car-centric trends. If achieved, however, both the rail and public transport initiatives have significant cost savings, largely due to a reduction in purchased vehicles. In addition to mode of transport, the electric vehicle targets are also very ambitious and have large emissions reduction benefits. The light-duty vehicle fuel efficiency initiative has a high reduction potential (0.67 percent), and the airplane efficiency initiative also has a large emissions reduction potential (0.10 percent), with respect to the size of the sector.
Analyzing the initiatives together indicates they would lead to a 3.7 percent reduction in global energy-related emissions by 2050. This value is less than the sum of reduction from each initiative individually because some of the initiatives have overlapping goals. Changes in demand, mode and technology could further impact the study’s results. Additionally, the level of effort required to achieve each initiative depends on the effort made in other areas. For example, if mode-shifting is successful, it makes it easier and less costly to achieve targets in vehicle efficiency or fleet electrification because it would reduce the total number of vehicles needed. Beyond these initiatives, greater emissions reduction from the transport sector is possible. Efforts in heavy-duty vehicle efficiency, freight demand and passenger vehicle occupancy rate, could also make significant emissions reductions.
Overall, the 3.7 percent reduction in global emissions from this sector represents 15 percent of transport-related emissions and ten percent of the emissions reduction needed through 2050. While the transport sector may not be as critical as renewable energy or land use, clear action in transport will reduce the burden on other sectors. Similarly, this study shows that while a few very ambitious efforts may lead to large emissions reduction, a strong effort across a variety of initiatives could be more effective.
Connected and Transparent Initiatives Can Hit Acheivable Targets
Understanding the high level of ambition and relative impact of the initiatives helps to guide both the focus and investment in making these goals a reality. The analysis shows that, while the initiatives cover many important aspects for reducing emissions in the transport sector, targets are not set for all opportunities. It also shows that clarity of the targets helps us to understand the true potential of the initiatives and assess whether or not they are achievable. This level of transparency is important for building confidence that initiative goals are attainable, thereby creating a shift in the market.
Moving forward, it is necessary to identify stronger linkages among various efforts as well as complementary policies, such as between electric vehicles and clean energy. Generally, the transport initiatives are well-connected to cities and organizations globally. However, it will still be important to establish the right connections among different levels of government and the private sector, as well as create access to finance and planning to make these initiatives a reality.
As negotiations at COP22 and Habitat III aim to shape the agenda for future development, it is important to connect various sectors, help shape the initiative process to support realistic but ambitious targets and identify all potential areas of action. WRI is active in cooperative initiatives that advance Global Climate Action and engage stakeholders within the LPAA process. Furthermore, WRI has contributed to the agenda of Habitat III by working with key negotiators and, going forward, will focus on mobilizing implementation of the New Urban Agenda.
To view the study and learn more, click here.