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ADB Study: CO2 Emissions from Asia Transport Sector Will Triple Over Next 25 Years

Projected increase in on-road CO2 emissions in India and China. Click to enlarge.

Even under the most optimistic current scenarios for managing the expansion of road traffic in Asia, emissions of carbon dioxide from the transport sector will triple over the next 25 years, according to a new study backed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

At the same time, local air pollution and congestion from transport will rise to levels that seriously hamper the ability to move people and goods in an effective manner, warns the report Energy Efficiency and Climate Change: Considerations for On-Road Transport in Asia.

The study presents one of the first comprehensive analyses of the relationships between transport and climate change in Asia over the next 25 years, undertaking a comprehensive review of current and future greenhouse gas emissions from the region’s transport.

All countries in emerging Asia currently have rather low levels of personal motorized transport (which in many cases comprises mostly motorcycles). But these levels are likely to increase drastically as incomes in these countries grow and the urban population expands.

For example, the number of cars and SUVs in the People’s Republic of China could grow by as much as 15 times the present level over the next 30 years to more than 190 million vehicles. In India, the growth could be as much as 13 times to around 80 million vehicles.

However, India is expected to have a population of 236 million motorcycles in 2035, which reflects a larger increase than China’s estimated 130 million motorcycles by 2035 (6.6 times growth for India vs. 2.4 times for China).

Under this business-as-usual (BAU) scenario, the total fuel consumption of on road vehicles in China is expected to grow three and a half times over the next 30 years while for India the fuel consumption in 2035 will be over six times that in 2005. Correspondingly, carbon dioxide emissions from on-road transport can be expected to rise by 3.4 times for China and 5.8 times for India over the same period.

These growth rates are less than those of the in-use population itself due to the anticipated improvement in vehicle fuel efficiency.

The report says that a change in vision is needed for the transport sector that takes into account local air pollution, congestion, energy efficiency and climate change implications.

Progress toward reducing the growth of greenhouse gases from the transport sector will require partnerships and involvement of a wide range of stakeholders. The problems must be addressed holistically. This means changing existing travel behavior patterns and modifying urban development patterns to minimize the type, length, and frequency of trips that people need to take.

—Bindu Lohani, Director General of ADB’s Regional and Sustainable Development Department

A combination of accelerating incomes, urban growth, and expanding vehicle ownership, if left unchecked, runs the risk of severely constraining the future economic advancement of Asian cities and economies, the report warns.

The report was prepared under the Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities (CAI-Asia) with support from ADB and launched at the Better Air Quality meeting this week in Yogyakarta.

A separate report commissioned by ADB—Urban Air Pollution in Asia Cities—and released the day before the climate change report notes that while air quality has improved in some Asian cities, pollution remains a threat to health and quality of life in others. One particular challenge is that while per vehicle emissions are being reduced, the volume of vehicles is rising rapidly.

The report studied 22 Asian cities. One of its key findings is that the concentration of PM10 is “serious”" in Beijing, Dhaka, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta, Kathmandu, Kolkata, New Delhi, and Shanghai.

The report also finds that concentrations of sulfur dioxide, the gas responsible for acid rain, have stabilized at a relatively low level and rarely exceed health guidelines. However, the use of high sulfur fuel content in some countries has resulted in an increase in emissions.

Emissions of nitrogen dioxide and fine particulate matter, mainly from the transport sector, are of concern in all cities experiencing rapid motorization. In addition, tropospheric ozone, a main constituent of petrochemical smog, will increase if motor vehicle use continues to rise.

The report also finds that Shanghai—along with Bangkok, Hong Kong, Seoul, Singapore, Taipei and Tokyo—has an excellent capacity to manage air quality. Beijing, Busan and New Delhi are rated as having good air quality management capability. All these cities have achieved major reductions in key emissions, the report notes, but still need to address fine particulate pollution from vehicle fumes.

The report is the result of an international collaborative effort led by the Stockholm Environment Institute’s centre at the University of York, United Kingdom, and the Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities (CAI-Asia), together with the Korea Environment Institute and the United Nations Environment Program.

Urban Air Pollution in Asia Cities recommends a number of actions to improve air quality in Asia’s cities, including:

  • Taking a more strategic approach to managing air quality;
  • Adopting more stringent vehicle emission standards;
  • Using cleaner fuels for motor vehicles, industry and power plants;
  • Better inspection and sourcing of emissions;
  • Stricter enforcement of legislation and more stringent standards for air quality;
  • Harmonization of air quality standards across Asia;
  • Development of more reliable inventories of air pollution emissions; and
  • Taking a regional approach to address transboundary air pollution and global climate change.


  • Energy Efficiency and Climate Change: Considerations for On-road Transport in Asia (Consultation draft)


John Baldwin

All vehicles in Asia need to run on CNG if there is to be acceptable air quality. Delhi has done it, all others must. There is no alternative.


I think they need to go beyond CNG, they need electric vehicles with the power coming from clean sources, or else the world is pretty much screwed. However with that much rise in fossil fuel consumption we're going to run out of fossil fuels way too fast anyway.


Clean biofuels, like short/medium length ethers, could also help.

John McConnell

What is a bummer is that the US is setting such an awful example. If WE were using all electric vehicles, maybe other countries might follow. But since we aren't and our federal administration has such a head-in-the-sand attitude about global warming, other countries can use us as an example if the want to do the wrong thing.

What I'm saying is, if we want the rest of the world to do the right thing, we need to start here in the US and start setting an example for the right way forward.

Bill Young

BEVs in the US and elsewhere are inhibited by patent liscensing limitations on NiMHydrides.

The Chinese are notorious for ignoring intellectual property rights. If they were to start manufacturing large NimHydride batteries for domestic BEVs, I, for one, would applaud rather than condemn.


Begin by taxing gasoline like we do in Europe. gas costs approx $5.30+ / Us Gal over here.
That would solve a lot of things, if you held your nerve through an automotive development cycle (~ 5 years)


One thing that would help a LOT would be to get rid of the little coal burning stoves in older houses and in rural areas. Those things are filthy, expecially with the lignite they commonly burn.


If they can charge BEVs using wind and hydro, they can clean up the air in the cities and reduce the CO2. I don't think the Chinese government wants to be importing lots of oil in the future.


DME-diesel + PHEV + massive investments in renewable and nuclear energy.

Then again, if it's seen as too expensive for the western world, how can we expect developing countries to deploy such capital-intensive solutions? :(


for go green asignment

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