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The European Transport White Paper of 2011 postulates that “curbing mobility is not an option”. We understand that this could exclude behavioural and organisational change, as in principle these would also reduce transport demand. The question should rather read, “which contributions technological change and behavioural change have to make to achieve the target of -60% GHG reductions of transport”. Our analysis reveals that pure technological change might contribute three fifth of these required GHG reductions. And it is not that simple to argue the remaining part would come from behavioural change. Instead we would argue, four key aspects need to be considered to fulfil the major target of the New Transport White Paper of reducing GHG emissions of transport by -60%:

  • Technological change, i.e. efficiency and alternative energy for transport.
  • Autonomous behavioural change that can already be observed, i.e. climate change awareness, multi-modality, new life style products (e.g. pedelecs) and re-urbanisation in green cities.
  • Ambitious policies setting incentives for both technological and behavioural change.
  • Governmental and societal coherence of transport taxation and revenues.
Development of new transport technologies requires financial resources as well as their market introduction might require financial support. Over a longer period a large share of global savings has been invested into financial markets or real estate at the risk of creating bubbles. As this risk became more obvious in the last years and thus investors are looking for new opportunities, the transport sector and its technological transition could provide such investment opportunities. Governments should attempt to drive more savings towards investments into the transport sector to fund the technological transition towards a highly efficient and low/no-carbon based transport system.

The following paragraphs summarize key recommendations that we drew with regard to the policy objective of the Transport White Paper to reduce transport GHG by -60% until 2050 as opposed to 1990. These recommendations have been presented to the stakeholders at the final conference of GHG-TransPoRD in November 2011 in Brussels.

Road transport

Car transport bears the largest GHG reduction potentials within the shortest time horizon. The scenarios indicate that CO2 emission limits for the average new car and applying tank-to-wheel calculation (i.e. one electric car counts as one car with 0 gCO2/km emissions) should be in the range of 70 to 90 gCO2/km for 2020 and 50 to 60 gCO2/km for 2030. Alternatively less stringent limits could be set for fossil fuel based cars if they exclude to account for EVs and HFCs. Two different pathways could achieve these reductions: (1) implementing all available efficiency technology for internal combustion engines cars (ICE), and (2) combining a cost efficient GHG efficiency strategy for ICEs with alternative fuels strategy (i.e. EV and HFC). The latter are required in the long run and thus the 2nd pathway would be recommended. It requires pricing incentives to promote market introduction of EVs and HFCs preferably into specific early adopter markets i.e. by feebates, strongly differentiated registration or circulation taxes. However, significant GHG reductions from EVs and HFCs can only be expected in the long run when the energy system is renewable. Nevertheless, policies must ensure that EV and HFC vehicles are enabled to enter their learning curves e.g. by policies focussing on specific early adopter markets for these technologies.

For truck transport priority should be on implementing efficiency technologies. 40% efficiency improvement until a time horizon 2020-2025 seems feasible at an extra cost of 25%. Biofuels could play a limited role for heavy trucks, while for medium-size trucks CNG/biogas would be relevant options.

The innovation system analysis has proven that road transport is the largest investor of private R&D. Policy-making should thus concentrate on guiding these R&D investments by reliable regulation providing targets and planning certainty for investments, but also by highlighting the investment opportunities in that sector.

Air transport

In the short term GHG reductions of air transport will have to come from operational measures, including the installation of the SESAR system. For air transport biofuels come close to being the silver bullet to significantly reduce GHG emissions until a time horizon of 2050. Additionally the open rotor technology should be developed for use in freighters and medium distance passenger aircraft. Both will require substantial R&D support. The latter could pave the way for new plane design in the form of blended-wing bodies, though these should become technology ready only after 2050 and bear high R&D expenditures and risk.

In parallel to such an R&D strategy it seems reasonable to prepare the grounds for demand management measures, such that if the R&D activities should fail as well as if the ICAO GHG emission targets for air transport would not be achieved demand man-agement e.g. via pricing measures could be implemented around 2030. This would imply to work on adapting international agreements such that either energy taxes or emission taxes, ticket taxes and/or value-added taxes become feasible policy options to be implemented for air transport as is the case for the other modes in international transport.

Ship transport

In the short-term ship GHG emissions can be reduced largely by operational measures, of which the most effective is slow steaming. For the long-term setting efficiency standards for new ships, as proposed by the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI), constitutes an important policy. This should be supported by R&D on the one hand focusing on incremental improvements by optimizing rudder and propeller as well as by adapting the ship surface and using renewable energies (e.g. wind energy). On the other hand step changes could be achieved by R&D support to develop new design of ship hulls and ship sizes.

Rail transport

Most important for GHG reductions of rail transport is to enable modal-shift by increase of capacity and attractiveness of rail. This holds for freight transport requiring to build dedicated rail freight infrastructure at certain bottlenecks including intermodal terminals and to support collaborative logistics to increase bundled volumes on long distance connections. For passenger rail transport the extension of a high-speed rail network well connected to regional feeder networks is the key, though it seems not always be required to run at top speeds. Continuing electrification should be an ongoing activity incrementally improving the GHG efficiency of rail.

Cross-modal transport

Using the optimal vehicle for each transport purpose bears high potentials of GHG reductions. This will effect modal-split and requires innovations both in operations and enabling technology. However, the agents in cross-modal transport have low incentives to innovate and act under strong market pressure such that R&D support is required to foster cross-modal transport. For freight transport this means to develop a consensus roadmap and involve SMEs in such activities. For passenger transport the concept of a seamless multi-modal urban passenger transport system (fifth mode) seems to be most important. With such a regime private cars in cities might be replaced by flexible multi-modal vehicle use, in which the vehicle is selected by users suiting most for the purpose of their trip, let it be a bike, public transport, ride-sharing, car-sharing or a combination of these options. Enabling technology for such a fifth mode would be smartphone apps allowing the user to select, book, use and pay for his or her mobility purposes with one tool and having a contract with one mobility provider, only, who integrates all the services into one platform.


On the policy side of developing biofuels it will be important to establish and enforce criteria that guarantee minimum GHG reductions strengthened over time and to avoid competition with food as well as indirect land use changes. It seems that developing sustainable biofuels for air transport should be prioritised due to limited number of GHG reduction options of air transport. For specific biofuels the potential mismatch between supply and demand should be taken into account. This holds for bioethanol and biogas, both generating a supply that in the scenarios analysed was larger than demand from the road vehicle fleets.
R&D support should focus on developing biofuels for air transport as well as developing the second generation (i.e. whole crop, non-food crops, residues) and third generation (i.e. algae) of biofuels.

GHG reduction targets proposed by GHG-TransPoRD

Building on the scenario calculations, in particular on the AMB_REG scenario, and in line with the aforementioned policy recommendations the GHG-TransPoRD project proposes the GHG reduction targets for transport as presented the following table. The targets are defined by mode as well as for the total transport sector. The table in the upper part displays targets referring to a GHG emissions base calculated for the year 2010. The lowest row then presents our proposed reduction targets for total EU27 transport in comparison with 1990, which is the base year usually applied in climate policy.

     2020  2030  2050
 Road  Passenger -20% to - 30% &160; -40% to -55%  -70% to - 85% 
   Freight -10% to -20%  -30% to -45%  -40% to - 60% 
 Air   0% to - 5%  -10% to -20%  -40% to -55% 
 Ship   (+15% to 0%)  (+30% to 0%) (+50% to -20%) 
 Rail   +10% to - 10%  0% to - 20%  -10% to - 35% 
 Transport  (excl. ship)  -10% to -20%  -40% to -50%  -70% to -90% 
EU27 target against 1990
 Transport  vs 1990  +10% to +5%  -20% to - 30%  -60% to -70% 
Source: GHG-TransPoRD.
It should be pointed out that the table builds on absolute values of GHG emissions such that targets e.g. for rail transport and road freight transport consider modal-shift from road to rail.

These proposed targets synthesize our analysis on potential R&D strategies of the different modes and the potential impacts of transport policies, implemented following a certain time path of implementation. Choosing the right time path of policy implementation will be very important to avoid investments that crowd out or lock-in into certain technologies and to bring the most effective new technologies into the market. Considering the requirement of private companies for reliability of long-term planning of major investments will play an important role for policy-making to actually generate these investments.