OECD Projects 290% Increase in Freight Transport Emissions by 2050

The International Transport Forum (ITF) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has released its 2015 Transport Outlook. According to the report’s projections, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from freight transport will increase by 290% by 2050. The Outlook also predicts that cities in China, India and Latin America will generate 38% of the growth in passenger transport emissions. 

In addition to the almost quadrupling of CO2 emissions overall in freight transport, the report outlines a number of other implications for climate change. It finds that, while domestic transport of international freight flows will account for 10% of trade-related international freight, it accounts for a 30% share of the CO2 emissions. The authors point out this finding’s significance for policy, as domestic transport falls under national policies and is less affected by international agreements.

Launching the report at OECD headquarters in Paris, France, ITF Secretary-General José Viegas offered four action items to address the challenges posed by the expected increase in freight transport: improve capacity management of underutilized freight facilities; invest in alternative and multi-modal connections to increase efficiency; adapt infrastructure to more and bigger vessels; and improve load factors and reduce idle times across supply chains.

On passenger transport, the report finds that policies encouraging a shift to public transport to reduce urban traffic in China, India and Latin America could reduce growth in emissions by 30-40%. The report cautions that policies focusing only on climate effects could increase other pollutants, if health impacts are not taken into account in their design. The report recommends considering ways to contain urban sprawl, set higher fuel prices, and prioritize public transport infrastructure expansion over urban road expansion.

In all aspects of transport examined by the report, the authors point out that in scenarios with high fuel prices, growth in transport and emissions is lower than in those with low fuel prices. The overall findings highlight the socioeconomic, climate and health benefits that can be derived from more efficient and cleaner transport.