Curbing motorised transport should be urgently addressed
Digitalisation, improved batteries and renewable fuels can be gamechangers for decarbonising transport. But technology alone will not do the job of drastically curbing the 25% of greenhouse gas emissions in the EU for which transport is responsible.
According to a recent EASAC Report, the missing links are strong policies to encourage not only accelerated technology shifts but also paradigm changes in behaviour.
“One option that policymakers must urgently put on the table is avoiding and containing the demand for motorised transport”, says Prof. George Giannopoulos, Member of EASAC’s Transport Working Group.
The transport sector is responsible for nearly a quarter of the EU’s carbon dioxide emissions, and its emissions are rising faster than in any other sector. In a recent report, EASAC shows that current EU policies are unlikely to deliver emission reductions quickly enough to limit global warming to less than 2°C. “European policies in the transport sector focus on promoting low-carbon fuels or electric cars. But these efforts are counteracted by the ever-growing popularity of heavier cars with more powerful motors.
This trend is offsetting all fuel-efficiency improvements and the effect of an increased share of electric vehicles,” explains William Gillett, EASAC’s Energy Programme Director. “In 2020 sales of fuel-hungry SUVs grew to a whopping 42% of the global car market. Even equipping these with electric powertrains would not solve the problem: The production of bigger cars has a much heavier impact on resources, and they require significantly more battery power.
We have to go for a much broader set of regulations and incentives.” In a joint event at the European Commission’s digital pavilion during COP26, European scientists and researchers, together with technology developers and industry pioneers, will present and discuss challenges as well as policies and regulations that could help close the gap between targets and actual transport emission trends.
The European science academies will address the potential for reducing GHG emissions by avoiding road transport, shifting passengers and freight onto more sustainable means of transport, and improving the emissions performance of road vehicles.
The Potsdam Institute and ACEA will report on progress being achieved with the decarbonisation of road freight vehicles, and PeddleSmart will talk about the potential for using innovative vehicles to decarbonise the carrying of passengers and freight over the last mile.