UNFCCC Report Highlights Key Role of Sustainable Transport in Climate Actions

This summary, shows how the strong deployment of policies within renewable energy, energy efficiency, transport, land use, carbon capture, use and storage and non-CO2 gases dramatically reduces greenhouse gas emissions at the same time as advancing goals in no less than 15 other areas, including citizens’ quality of life, health and work, lower government spending and higher tax revenues, better energy security and delivery and improved private sector profits”. -Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has released a report, “Climate Action Now,” to provide a high-level summary of concrete actions that Parties can pursue, in accordance with their national circumstances, in the pre-2020 period to increase their ambition and strengthen broad-based international cooperation. The report highlights key messages for policy makers on the global state of play of climate change, and identifies the actions and good practices taken by international organizations, initiatives, and non-state actors to address climate change.

The report points out that the transport sector generated 7.0 Gt CO2eq of GHG emissions globally in 2010, accounting for approximately 23 per cent of total energy-related CO2 emissions. Transport emissions can be broken down into the subsectors shown in the graphic below, with road transport emissions making up over 72% of total emissions in the transport sector.

Given current rates of growth for passenger and freight transport, emissions from the transport sector could increase globally by up to 50 per cent by 2035 and almost double by 2050. However, UNEP estimates potential reductions of emissions from land transport, aviation and shipping of 1.7–2.5 Gt CO2 eq, by 2020, underscoring the significant mitigation potential of the transport sector:

Addressing the climate impacts of transport can bring about co-benefits such as improvements in local air pollution, energy security, decongestion of roads, improved safety and increased general mobility. It can also create jobs in mass transport, energy-efficient vehicle manufacturing and biofuel production. In addition, the IEA estimates that a shift to sustainable, low-carbon transport by 2050 could save governments, companies and individuals up to USD 70 trillion.

Emissions from the transport sector can be reduced through ‘shift’ policies, which encourage users to favor lower-emission forms of transport; ‘avoid’ policies, which reduce the need for travel; and ‘improve’ policies, which aim at increasing the energy efficiency of vehicles. All three policies are critical to facilitate a paradigm shift to reconcile transport and climate change objectives, as demonstrated in the following global examples.


In 2005, Mexico City opened Metrobus, a BRT corridor along one of the city’s busiest streets. During the first six years of operation, the first BRT line managed to reduce CO2 eq emissions by 300,000 metric tons, corresponding to USD 800,000 of income for the city, and reduce commute times from 1.5 hours to 1 hour for this route. Mexico City has since expanded the use of BRT corridors, leading to one tenth of the users of the BRT system shifting from private cars.

Bicycle-sharing schemes have been set up in a number of cities around the world. Among the best known is the Parisian Vélib’ scheme, launched in 2007, which now boasts more than 20,000 bikes around the city. One fifth of its long-term subscribers say they drive less since signing up.


In Curitiba, Brazil, high-density transit corridors were integrated into the city’s master plan to promote residential and industrial development in those areas. As a result of these corridors and other smart transit planning decisions, Curitiba has one of the most heavily used yet low-cost transit systems in the world.

In 2010, Japan released its Low Carbon City Development Guidance to support local authorities in promoting and planning for low-carbon city development. This included a description of methods and measures to pursue compact urban areas where people can live closer to their workplaces, thereby reducing travel distances and alleviating transportation demand.


Nine jurisdictions – Brazil, Canada, China, the EU, India, Japan, Mexico, the Republic of Korea and the United States of America, which account for over 80 per cent of car sales worldwide – have established or proposed GHG emission standards for light-duty vehicles. These standards are expected to improve the average fuel efficiency of such vehicles by around 50 per cent between 2000 and 2025.

Finally, the report acknowledges a number of international initiatives that promote clean transport, including the Global Fuel Economy Initiative, the UNEP Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles, and the Partnership on Sustainable Low Carbon Transport.

The full report can be downloaded here.