Moving Transport to Net Zero

What It Takes to Decarbonise the Global Transport Sector

What is necessary to reach net zero emissions in the transport sector on a global level? To keep limiting global warming to 1.5° C within reach, the world has to decarbonise by mid-century, with every sector contributing as much as possible as soon as possible. The Wuppertal Paper no. 199 identifies what has to be done in road transport, aviation, and shipping to achieve net zero emission in the transport sector.

For this purpose, the paper first sets the scene by providing an overview of the origins and impacts of the concept of net zero emissions in international climate policy as well as of the current state and future prospects of global transport emissions using currently available scenarios for low-emission and net zero transport.

While for staying below 1.5° C, the basic approach to reducing transport emissions remains unchanged from what has been suggested in the past, the set, intensity and pace of actions as to shift fundamentally. Without first drastically reducing traffic volume and shifting transport demand to low-emission modes, reaching net zero transport will not be feasible: the amount of additional electricity required to fully electrify the sector with renewable energy is otherwise just too huge.

After portraying key instruments for achieving net zero emissions in land transport, aviation, and shipping, the paper identifies key barriers for net zero transport. Based on this analysis, the authors recommend the following to be able to move transport to net zero:

  1. Adapt Decarbonisation Strategies to Different Transport Sub-sectors
  2. Prioritise and Significantly Increase Investment in Zero-/low-carbon Infrastructure
  3. Massively Invest in the Development and Roll out of Zero-/low-emission Technologies
  4. Focus on a Just Transition to Overcome Social and Political Barriers
  5. Increase International Support and Cooperation

Read the full paper: Wuppertal Paper no. 199
by Hanna Wang-Helmreich, Wolfgang Obergassel and Oliver Lah

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