ITF: Freight transport will replace passenger traffic as main CO2 source from surface transportation by 2050
In the face of shifting global trade patterns, international freight transport volumes will likely grow more than four-fold (factor 4.3) by 2050, according to the International Transport Forum at the OECD’s ITF Transport Outlook 2015. Average transport distance across all modes will increase 12%. As a result, CO2 emissions from freight transport will grow by 290% by 2050. Freight will replace passenger traffic as main source of CO2 emissions from surface transport. The world growth of surface freight volumes and related CO2 emissions will be driven by non‐OECD economies.
Asia, including China and India, will account for more than 50% of world surface freight transport by 2050 (compared with 35% today). The growth ranges between 330% and 630% for freight volumes and between 240% and 600% for the CO2 emissions. The difference between the highest and the lowest scenario for non‐OECD economies reflects uncertainties related to the direction these economies will take in terms of composition of production and the share of different types of freight transport.
Other findings of the report include:
The North Pacific route will surpass the North Atlantic as the world’s most busy trading corridor in terms of freight volume (in tonne-km), growing 100 percentage points faster than the North Atlantic. The Indian Ocean corridor will see large growth, with freight volume quadrupling.
Intra-African (+715%) and intra-Asian (+403%) freight volumes will see particularly strong growth to 2050. Road transport will dominate here due to lack of other modes.
The share of domestic transport of international freight flows accounts for 10% of trade-related international freight, but 30% of CO2 emissions. This is important, the report emphasizes: Domestic transport is shaped by national policies, less by international agreements.
Growth in global road and rail passenger travel to 2050 ranges from 120% to 230%, depending on future fuel prices and urban transport policies. This growth is driven by non‐OECD economies, where passenger volumes are projected to grow between 240% and 450%.
CO2 emissions from global surface passenger transport will grow by between 30% and 110%. The lowest growth scenario assumes high fuel prices and urban transport development that is mass transit/public transport‐oriented with slow expansion of road infrastructure. The highest growth occurs when fuel prices are low and urban transport development is private‐vehicle oriented, with strong road infrastructure expansion.
Public‐transport oriented urban policies would reduce CO2 emission growth by around 30% compared with the baseline scenario in Latin American and Chinese cities, and by almost 40% in Indian cities. Alignment of policies that contain sprawl, set higher fuel prices, and prioritise expansion of public transport infrastructure over urban road infrastructure can maintain current shares of public transport in Latin American and Indian cities, and significantly limit the reduction in China (with the public transport share in 2050 being twice what it would be in a baseline scenario in the three cases).
Same policy strategies do not necessarily achieve similar reductions in CO2 emissions and in negative health impacts. Integrated policies aiming at climate and health objectives work best. Promoting low sprawl and road development, and higher rates of public transit can achieve substantial climate change mitigation, and lower negative effects on health if implemented alongside more stringent controls for vehicle emissions (in particular for buses). In contexts with relevant participation of two‐wheelers, these can bring positive results in terms of CO2 reduction, congestion and affordable mobility, but adequate regulations for motorcycle emissions are critical to avoid severe public health impacts.
The foreseeable increase in global freight represents an unprecedented challenge for the world’s transport systems. Increasing capacity constraints in transport can act as a brake on economic growth. A quadrupling of freight emissions can seriously undermine climate change mitigation.—ITF Secretary-General José Viegas
Viegas pointed to four action items that would help to avoid such a scenario:
Improve capacity management: Many freight facilities are underutilized.
Invest in missing links: More alternative and multi-modal connections increase efficiency.
Prepare for mega-ships: Adapt infrastructure to more and bigger vessels, including the port-hinterland connections.
Increase vehicle utilization: Improve load factors and reduce idle times across supply chains.
The International Transport Forum at the OECD is an intergovernmental organization with 54 member countries. It acts as a strategic think tank for transport policy and organises an Annual Summit of ministers. It is the only global body with a mandate for all transport modes.