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Global transport activity to double by 2050


Worldwide transport activity is projected to more than double by 2050 while traffic emissions will rise by 16 percent compared to 2015 – even if existing international commitments to decarbonize transport are fully implemented.

 Any currently anticipated emissions reductions will be more than offset by the increased demand for transport.

Such are key findings of the ITF Transport Outlook 2021, the biennial report of the International Transport Forum, a sister organization of the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

ITF secretary-general Young Tae Kim said the report “provides policy makers with insights from cutting-edge ITF research on the three major challenges of our time: the Covid-19 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.”

The report suggests that transport CO2 emissions can be cut by almost 70 percent over the 2015-50 period with the right policies. A reduction of this magnitude would bring the goal of the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5˚C into reach.

Based on 2015 figures, the report notes that urban mobility generates 40 percent of all CO2 emissions from the movement of people; non-urban transport is responsible for the remaining  60 percent; 75 percent of all emissions from urban passenger transport come from private cars; freight emits more than 40 percent of all transport CO2 and its share is growing slightly.

If current policies remain in place between now and 2050: passenger transport activity will increase 2.3-fold (measured in passenger-km); freight transport activity will grow 2.6-fold (measured in tonne-km); emissions from urban mobility will fall very slightly, by five percent; freight CO2 emissions will grow by 22 percent.

The report makes six recommendations for how governments can set the world on a path towards sustainable mobility, achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement and support the UN Sustainable Development Goals:

  1. Align Covid-19 recovery packages to revive the economy, combat climate change and strengthen equity.
  2. Implement much more ambitious policies that will reverse the growth of transport CO2 emissions.  .
  3. Target different transport sectors with strategies that reflect their specific decarbonization potential and challenges 
  4. Support innovation to accelerate the technological breakthroughs needed to decarbonize transport.  
  5. Shift the priority to improving accessibility.
  6. Intensify collaboration with non-transport sectors and between public and private actors. Transport decarbonization is inseparable from developments in other sectors. Sustainable mobility is only possible with clean energy. In turn, low-carbon transport is central to sustainable trade and tourism.   Photo: Port of Shanghai