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Decarbonising Transport in Europe

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Decarbonising Europe’s transport sector

Passenger and freight transport generate around a quarter of Europe’s total carbon emissions. An EU-funded project modelled the impact of mitigation policies to help policymakers reach the European Commission’s carbon emission goals for the sector.

Transport and Mobility icon Transport and Mobility

Transport is essential for Europe’s economic prosperity and position in global supply chains. Yet the sector generates around 25 % of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions, presenting a major climate challenge. Under the European Green Deal, the EU has therefore committed to reducing the transport industry’s carbon emissions by 90 % by 2050. These targets will only be achievable by working out the impacts of mitigation measures, to ensure the most effective strategies are put in place. The EU-funded DTEU project developed a suite of advanced models for Europe’s transport sector, to provide detailed quantitative evidence of the impact of CO2 mitigation measures. The DTEU team modelled two major carbon mitigation scenarios – one based on current policies, another on more ambitious ones – to analyse the progress specific policies will make towards the goal of decarbonisation in Europe’s transport sector. The analysis revealed more work needs to be done to ensure Europe meets its objectives, as current policies will not come close to meeting the 90 % reduction target. “Even under the high ambition scenario, the aim of limiting transport CO2 emissions to around 60 million tonnes by 2050 will not happen,” says Elisabeth Windisch, head of the Empirical Policy Analysis team at the International Transport Forum. “That said, such increased ambition would suffice to cut transport CO2 emissions by around 60 %, which would at least surpass the Commission’s previous decarbonisation goal, set in 2011,” she notes.

Modelling carbon emission mitigation policies

The scenarios were developed through the engagement of various stakeholders from within the industry, and represent rural, urban, passenger and freight transport. The project analysed policies to assess their potential over the next three decades. Current or anticipated policies formed the ‘Current Ambition’ scenario. More aggressive versions of the same policies, along with further decarbonisation measures – deemed to be both technically and politically feasible – formed the ‘High Ambition’ category. To ensure that the scenarios were ambitious yet realistic, the DTEU team worked with stakeholders from industry, academia, NGOs and governments. This ensured both pathways were compatible with the objectives of the European Green Deal and the EU’s Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy. Through this inclusive policy dialogue, members from across public and private sectors could be involved in shaping future European policy. This collaborative aspect of the project was particularly important to the team, says Windisch. “We are particularly proud of engaging a large set of different stakeholders in the project, ranging from policymakers to academia, NGOs, international development banks, corporations and others,” she adds.

Feeding into future transport policy

The DTEU team hopes that the results from the project will lead to more concrete actions and measures to decarbonise Europe’s transport sector. “Decarbonisation measures should be used to make transport more resilient, sustainable, accessible and equitable, in line with the objectives of the European Green Deal. “This could not only benefit the environment, but also improve the quality of life for European citizens,” remarks Windisch. “Done the right way, new mobility options can also improve citizens’ access to opportunities, for example by alleviating congestion and providing more and cheaper alternatives for private vehicle use.”


DTEU, climate, challenge, transport, sector, mitigation, policies, modelling, decarbonisation

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