Emissions to soar as transport activity doubles by 2050, study finds

17th May 2021

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Global traffic emissions are set to soar over the next three decades as demand for transport more than doubles, a new study has forecast.

The International Transport Forum's (ITF) Transport Outlook 2021 report predicts that worldwide traffic emissions will rise 16% by 2050, when compared to 2015, even if existing commitments to decarbonise transport are fully implemented.

Any current expected emissions reductions are forecast to be more than offset by the increased demand for transport.

However, the report also suggests that transport CO2 emissions can be cut by almost 70% over the 2015-50 period if governments put ambitious low-carbon policies in place now, reinforce positive behavioural changes caused by COVID-19, and gear stimulus packages towards decarbonisation.

A reduction of this magnitude will bring the goal of the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5˚C into reach.

ITF secretary-general, Young Tae Kim, said that the report provides policymakers with insights on on the “three major challenges of our time”, the pandemic, climate change and inequality.

“It shows how they are linked, but also identifies actions – actions that are critical to ensure an effective and equitable transition to sustainable mobility on an urban, regional and global level in the wake of the pandemic,” he added.

The report highlights how 75% of all emissions from urban passenger transport come from private cars, and how freight emits more than 40% of all transport CO2.

If current policies remain in place between now and 2050, it predicts that passenger transport activity will increase 2.3-fold, and that freight transport activity will grow 2.6-fold.

However, under ambitious policies that also lock in CO2 reduction windfalls from COVID-19, cities could cut CO2 emissions from urban mobility by 80% by 2050, regional passenger transport could more than halve its CO2 emissions, and freight emissions could be 72% less.

“Well-targeted and purposefully designed recovery measures should be aligned towards a triple objective: revive the economy, combat climate change and strengthen cohesion of our societies,” the report states.

“Aligning policies to that end will require greater collaboration between all stakeholders and breaking down silos to overcome the barriers that stand in the way of the urgent progress that the world needs.”

Image credit: Shutterstock


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