ITF Transport Outlook 2015

‘By 2050, cities in China, India, and Latin America will generate more than a third (38%) of the growth in passenger transport emissions. By 2050, freight will replace passenger transport as the main sources of C02 emissions from surface transport.’

Key findings of the ‘ITF Transport Outlook 2015’, presented on January, 27, 2015 at the OECD headquarters in Paris, provide plenty of points to ponder…

The 170-page publication examines the trends, and forecasts the developments of global transport volumes, related C02 emissions and health impacts through to 2050.

Rather than attempting to establish a likely central forecast for the evolution of transport volumes, it focuses on scenarios that illustrate the potential upper and lower tracks that might unfold, depending on policies adopted to shape demand, and key external factors, including oil prices, population growth, and overall GDP.

Shifting carbon emissions

To date, 60% of road- and rail-related CO2 is emitted by passenger modes; 40% by freight. However, by 2050 these figures will have changed places, i.e. 40% for passenger and 60% for freight.

This swap will be driven by shifting global trade patterns, which will see international goods transport volumes rise more than fourfold in the next 40+ years (by a factor of 4.3).

“The foreseeable increase in global freight represents an unprecedented challenge for the world’s transport systems,” comments José Viegas, secretary general, ITF. “Increasing capacity constraints in transport can act as a brake on economic growth.”

Sea, road & rail

Maritime transport continues by far to be the cheapest mode for transporting goods, due to its huge capacity.

“For instance, 60 wagons on a 1.5km-long train can carry 120 TEUs [twenty-foot equivalent units],” explains Mr Viegas. “In comparison a ship can hold 18,000 TEUs, which represents 150 times more!”

“A weakness of railway systems – missing links or nodes not used efficiently – is further  favouring maritime,” adds Jari Kauppila, senior economist, ITF. “To make ‘very important transport’ [VIT] a routine rail activity calls for significant investment in the physical infrastructure, plus a lot of negotiations to establish priorities on routes.”

As we edge towards 2050, the predominant modes of goods transport are set to be air, or roads to/from ports.

The above observation is based on the fact that going forward, globally, the greatest volumes of products will be produced and consumed in countries/regions that may be land-locked; where transport is mainly road based; and/or where are no alternatives to the road exist.

Surprisingly perhaps, container ships are not ALL pollution pirates.

Indeed operators/owners are making an effort to clean up their act, with “a lot having already switched to liquefied compressed gas (LCG),” assures Mr Viegas. “Plus we will be seeing more such ‘cleaner’ fuels coming on stream in the years to come.”

Just as well:  shipping emissions will increase twelve fold by 2050 unless action is taken to curb them.

Mobility in the city

The  report contains rich information about the impacts of alternative policies on urban modal split.

In particular, latest projections on C02 emissions and health impacts for car- and public transport-based mobility for big cities in India, Latin America, and China. Scenarios show there is considerable margin for political decision making.

By 2050, even if Chinese cities adapt a public transport-orientated approach to urban mobility, cars will still be used for 50% of journeys; the share of public transport will be less than it is today. These startling outcomes will be due to the huge increase in wealth in the country, meaning more people  buying cars.

Another point to bear in mind: while some policies certainly do reduce C02 emissions, they may well increase other pollutants, e.g. in Latin America, where the bus is a very popular mode of transport. How so?

Because buses generate more N0X than cars. So while of course policies are absolutely vital, equally so are steps to enforce the introduction of ‘cleaner’ engine technologies, and to monitor their deployment.

“In a word, policy matters, but at the same time public transport has to be modern, clean, and technologically advanced,” warns Mr Viegas. “Strict controls must be introduced for buses.”

Taking note

For urban mobility in emerging countries, the ‘Outlook’ advances the following recommendations:

  • Focus on ‘avoid-shift-improve’: contain urban sprawl to reduce the need for mobility; encourage the shift to public transport; charge real prices, i.e. that reflect real costs (note, in many countries, car fuel is largely subsidised)
  • Change investment priorities: spend more on public transport, less on new city roads
  • Think climate & health: avoid trade-offs by setting policies for all emission types, not just C02; tighten emission standards for buses and two-wheelers, i.e. push technologies across both modes
  • Curbing CO2 emissions is not the only concern for buses

Continuing the debate…

Discussions on global transport volumes, related C02 emissions and health impacts will be continued at the 2015 ITF annual summit – ‘Transport, Trade & Tourism.’

 

 

 

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