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EC Project Concludes Transport Unlikely to Deliver Required GHG Cuts to Contribute to Meeting Overall 2050 GHG Reduction Target Without Policies to Limit Demand Growth

Even the most ambitious combined scenario so far falls short of required GHG cuts. Click to enlarge.

If the EU is to meet its overall target of cutting total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 80% relative to 1990 by 2050, then transport must reduce its emissions by 50-80% compared to 1990, according to the report from the “EU Transport GHG: Routes to 2050?” project established by the European Commission to look at GHG emission reduction scenarios.

Such a reduction would correspond to a 70-90% reduction in transport compared to projected business-as-usual (BAU) emission levels. Higher overall targets (90-95% reduction) would require almost 100% GHG reduction in transport compared to BAU. However, even the most ambitious scenario developed so far as part of the study delivered a transport emissions reduction of less than 60% by 2050.

There is no evidence, according to the project studies, that the growth in GHG and transport demand will slow down without policy intervention. Decreases in carbon intensity in transport to date have not resulted in reduced GHG emissions due to increased demand; existing regulation and efficiency improvements have effect but are far from sufficient, the project concluded.

Projected GHG emissions growth by mode. Click to enlarge.

The largest relative growth is expected in Aviation, heavy goods vehicles (HGV), and Shipping; emissions from cars are expected to grow more slowly, but contribute the largest component of the transport emissions.

The analysis was based on various combinations of policy options and technological improvements including new vehicle emission limits, increased fuel taxes, support for electric and hydrogen technologies, EU motorway speed limits and land transport’s inclusion in the EU’s emissions trading scheme (ETS).

The project has so far concluded that to meet 2050 targets, both technology and improvements as well as limiting demand growth are imperative. On the technology side, vehicle and fuel regulation are primary instruments. Overall, this is an attractive pathway, because no fundamental behavioral change is required.

However, the technological reduction potential is insufficient; therefore, the project principals concluded, “limiting demand growth is imperative.” On that side, pricing policy, speed, infrastructure, spatial planning are key elements. It is difficult to get support for reducing transport growth, particularly as long as it is not clear what type of growth can come instead.

There is an urgent need to take action on both fronts, they concluded, because of long lead times and risks of policies achieving less than expected.

The project will be examining other scenarios in the coming months to find a combination that delivers greater reductions. The organizers hope to have a final version of their scenario-generating tool ready by the end of April, when they plan to publish more a detailed explanation of the assumptions they have used.

Partners in the EC project include AEA, CE Delft, Isis, TNO and Milieu.



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