G20 holds key to climate neutrality in transport

A new report from Agora Verkehrswende and GIZ sheds light on sustainable transport in G20 countries / Current policy commitments will not reverse emission trends / The G20 presidencies of India, Brazil and South Africa could provide new impetus for change

Berlin/Panaji, 19 July 2023. The G20 must devote special attention to climate protection in the transport sector if the Paris agreement targets are to remain within reach. This is a key takeaway of a new report by the German climate policy think tank Agora Verkehrswende on the current status of international efforts to transform the transport sector. Published in cooperation with the German federal agency for international cooperation GIZ, the report was presented on 19 July at a G20 working meeting in Panaji, the capital of the Indian state of Goa, together with the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog).

According to the report, there is a threat of greenhouse gas emissions from transport increasing significantly worldwide up to 2050, rather than falling to zero, despite technological advances and planned policy measures. The member nations of the G20 are responsible for over two-thirds of global transport emissions. Accordingly, G20 leadership is required to place global transport on a path to decarbonisation as well as strengthen associated international cooperation.

“Reducing global greenhouse gas emissions in transport is one of the biggest challenges on the path to climate neutrality,” says Christian Hochfeld, Director of Agora Verkehrswende. “Transport sector emissions have increased globally by 80 per cent since 1990 – no other sector has witnessed such a strong increase. In many countries, population growth and economic expansion have not yet been decoupled from demand for fossil fuels. Efforts across the globe are needed to reverse this rise in emissions. We can change course, but only if the G20 nations lead the way, and provide support to other countries.”

Special challenges for emerging economies

The report presents key statistics on the development of emissions and transport in the G20 countries, summarises trends to date, and discusses prospects for the future, including opportunities for action. It was developed as part of the NDC Transport Initiative for Asia, an international cooperation project funded by International Climate Initiative of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection. The report focuses on Indonesia, India, and Brazil – the three countries that hold the G20 presidency consecutively from 2022 to 2024. In 2025, South Africa, another important emerging economy, will assume the G20 presidency.

Urda Eichhorst, Project Director at GIZ, says: “With the presidencies of Indonesia, India, Brazil, and South Africa, the focus of the G20 is shifting to the world’s emerging economies. While these dynamically growing countries still have lower per-capita transport emissions than the US, Australia, or Saudi Arabia, their emissions levels are increasing rapidly. In India and Indonesia, total transport emissions have more than tripled since 1990. With our report, we hope to strengthen the role played by transport-related climate policy in the domain of international cooperation.”

International cooperation for sustainable mobility

In a series of comprehensive country profiles, the report shows that many G20 countries have set targets for zero-emission vehicles and charging infrastructure, and have adopted associated policy measures. However, the G20 countries differ significantly in their exploitation of additional opportunities for reducing emissions – such as the bundling and shifting of transport demand to more efficient transport modes. Against the backdrop of population growth and increasing motorisation, the switch to electric vehicles alone will not be sufficient to sustainably reduce transport emissions to zero, according to the study. The widespread subsidy of fossil fuels is counterproductive, the study additionally notes. Together, the G20 countries provide petroleum subsidies for transport worth over 100 billion US dollars per year. If these subsidies were gradually abolished, it would provide an enormous boost to the global transformation of the transport sector towards greater sustainability, the study concludes.

The authors emphasise that the climate benefits of electric vehicles depend in no small part on the simultaneous expansion of generation from renewables. So far, not all G20 countries have devoted sufficient attention to expanding the share of generation from renewable sources. Synthetic alternatives to petroleum-based fuels produced with renewable electricity – also known as e-fuels – should be reserved for use by aircraft and ships, given the lack of battery-electric solutions for these transport modes. Selective reliance on e-fuels is additionally necessitated by supply limitations (given the scale of energy demand in the transport sector) and their very high cost (which is anticipated to persist long into the future). An additional finding of the study is that the development of industrial capacities for the production of e-fuels is a global challenge that can only be tackled on the back of close international cooperation. International cooperation will also be crucial for the sustainable development of digital solutions and networks in the transport sector, the study notes.

Taking stock of decarbonisation efforts in the transport sector

The study, titled “Towards Decarbonising Transport 2023: A Stocktake on Sectoral Ambition in the G20”, is available for download free of charge at https://www.agora-verkehrswende.de/en/publications/ and at https://changing-transport.org/publications/. Similar reports on climate policy and transport were published by GIZ and Agora Verkehrswende in 2017 and 2018. The latest edition of the report was developed in cooperation with the partner organisations involved in the NDC Transport Initiative Asia project. These organisations are: the SLOCAT Partnership on Sustainable, Low Carbon Transport; the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT); the International Transport Forum (ITF); the World Resources Institute (WRI); and the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21). For more information about the project, please visit: https://www.ndctransportinitiativeforasia.org/.

About Agora Verkehrswende

Agora Verkehrswende is a Berlin-based think tank that seeks to promote climate-friendly mobility. Non-partisan and non-profit, it works together with key stakeholders in the fields of politics, business, academia and civil society to decarbonise the transport system. To this end, the think-tank team develops evidence-based policy strategies and recommendations. Agora Verkehrswende was initiated in 2016 by Stiftung Mercator and the European Climate Foundation.


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