Energy Transition Handbook 2021 - Flipbook - Page 40
Decarbonisation of long distance transport
Long-distance transport accounts for 12% of global emissions. There is a viable pathway
to decarbonising heavy road transport and rail but maritime transport and aviation
present a greater challenge.
Heavy road transport
The Energy Transitions Commission reports that
heavy duty road transport accounts for 2.5Gt of
CO2 emissions annually, which represents 7.3%
of total global energy system emissions. But under
a business-as-usual scenario, this could rise to
4.6Gt of CO2 emissions annually by mid-century,
as total road freight volumes rise rapidly in many
parts of the developing world, and up to 11.6% of
remaining emissions, as emissions fall in other
easier to decarbonise sectors of the economy such
as power generation.
Air travel is more accessible than ever. Pre the
COVID-19 pandemic, aviation carried 4.5 billion
passengers and over one third of traded goods
by value globally in 2019. At the same time those
flights produced 915 million tonnes of CO2. But
while the global aviation industry is a relatively
small contributor to GHG emissions (producing
around 2% of all human-induced CO2 emissions),
decarbonising aviation is arguably the greatest
challenge that the air transport industry faces.
In the EU, transport is the only sector that did not
record any important decline in greenhouse gas
emissions in the last decades. Its emissions started
to decrease slightly only after 2007 but are still
higher than in 1990. Road transport is the biggest
cause of greenhouse gas emissions responsible
for around 20% of EU’s total emissions of CO2
(cars and vans 15%, heavy-duty vehicles 6%).
Decarbonising road transport and reducing its
dependency on oil is therefore a key target of
energy transition. Electric vehicles provide an
immediate pathway for decarbonising passenger
vehicles and light commercial vehicles in
many markets. Biofuels provide a transitional
solution for reducing internal combustion engine
emissions and hydrogen powered vehicles offer
good long term potential in the freight sector.
Road pricing linked to vehicle emissions is also
politically attractive as a means to offset falling
fossil fuel duty fiscal revenues that will result
from the transition.
Aviation is clearly under increasing pressure to
decarbonise. It is a very long-term industry, with
returns on investment measured in decades,
which makes it really difficult to decarbonise
quickly. In addition, the industry is at risk
of having its emissions locked in due to the
growth in passenger numbers and aircraft fleet.
While uncertainties exist (and are growing due
to the Covid-19 pandemic) the sector will have a
substantial fuel demand well into the 2030s and
2040s, a period when the global economy needs
to increasingly decarbonise.
Aviation was the first industrial sector to set a
target for CO2 emissions reduction, pledging
to introduce Carbon-Neutral Growth from
2020 (CNG2020) and aiming to achieve a 50%
reduction of emissions by 2050 when compared
to those emitted in 2005. The United Nations’
International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO)
adopted a four-pillar approach to deliver on
this. This consists of more efficient aircraft
technologies as incentivised by the CO2 standard,
operational improvements such as more efficient
flight procedures, the development and use of
sustainable alternative fuels and market-based
measures, such as CORSIA.