This paper examines seven global transport initiatives to reduce emissions. The initiatives are among fifteen presented as part of the Paris Process on Mobility and Climate and the Lima-Paris Action Agenda—both platforms for mobilizing non-state actors under the auspices of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The initiatives include efforts in planning, non-motorized transport, public transport, freight, aviation, fuel economy, intelligent transport systems, and electric vehicles.

The paper assesses the seven initiatives using the “Global Calculator” — an open-source tool for exploring emissions reduction actions in energy, land, and food systems up to 2050 and the consequences of those actions through 2100. Developed by the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (now part of the Department Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy) with input from academic and civil society partners (including the Word Resources Institute), the calculator helps users understand the relative impact of actions in terms of GHG emissions, costs, and effort required.

Key Findings

The results of the analysis are presented with respect to the International Energy Agency (IEA) 6 degree scenario as mapped in the Global Calculator. The findings show that the initiatives are generally very ambitious and would lead to a 3.7 percent reduction in global energy-related emissions by 2050 through actions in the transport sector. The largest emissions reduction could come from mode-shifting initiatives, either to rail or public transport (up to a 2.42 percent reduction in emissions), but would also require a very high level of effort to achieve. Both have significant cost savings due to a reduction in the assumed number of vehicles purchased and infrastructure needs. The electric vehicle targets also are very ambitious and have large emissions reduction benefits. The light-duty vehicle fuel efficiency initiative has large emissions reduction potential (0.67 percent), and the airplane efficiency initiative has large emissions reduction potential (0.10 percent) with respect to the size of the sector.

Changes in demand, mode, and technology could further impact the results as the level of effort required for 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 electrification of the fleet because it will reduce the total number of vehicles needed. Similarly for emissions reduction, the calculator shows that the carbon intensity of the grid, which impacts the emissions reduction potential from the initiatives related to electric vehicles, is highly dependent on total energy demand. Therefore, the lower the demand from all sectors, the lower the carbon intensity of electricity used in electric vehicles.

The analysis also shows that while the initiatives cover many of the important areas for reducing emissions in the transport sector, targets are not set for all of the most important opportunities to reduce emissions in the transport sector, such as reducing emissions from heavy-duty vehicles and reducing total travel demand. Understanding the collective emphasis of the initiatives, possible synergies to leverage, and regionalization of targets can lead to a more cost-effective and achievable strategy for emissions reduction in transport.

To improve the effectiveness of the initiatives, more clarity is needed regarding emissions-reduction targets for some initiatives, stronger linkages are needed among various efforts, complementary policies are needed to increase the effectiveness of initiatives, and wider geographical coverage is desirable. Generally, the transport initiatives are well-connected to cities and organizations globally.

However, it will still be important to create the right linkages among different levels of government and the private sector, as well as creating access to finance and planning to make these initiatives a reality.