Nationally-Determined Contributions (NDCs) represent a unique opportunity to increase bold mitigation and adaptation measures in transport and other sectors, as for the first time, countries are communicating their intended actions to reduce emissions and increase resilience on sectoral scales in the context of the UNFCCC system. The SLoCaT Partnership has updated its analysis of NDCs in the transport sector, which was designed to inform the Paris Agreement on climate change reached in December 2015.
Among 160 NDCs representing 187 countries submitted as of August 1, 2016, more than three quarters explicitly identify the transport sector as a mitigation source, and more than 63% of INDCs propose transport sector mitigation measures.
Among the 200+ transport measures proposed in the NDCs there is a strong bias passenger transport, which is included in 91% of NDCs identifying specific transport modes. Among these, urban transport measures are mentioned in 74% of NDCs, while strategies such as high-speed rail (2%), and walking and cycling (14%) have received relatively less attention (Figure 1). While freight contributes about 40% of CO2 emissions it is mentioned in only 29% of the NDCs that propose transport measures.
In high-income countries, nearly 50% of mitigation strategies are directly related to fuel efficiency improvement or decarbonizing fuel, while in middle- and low-income countries, mitigation strategies are relatively more balanced, with strategies directly related to fuel efficiency improvement or decarbonizing fuel contributing about 35% of mitigation strategies. While fuel economy standards and e-mobility are prioritized in high-income countries, middle and low-income countries rely more heavily on public transport improvements, which account for about a quarter of planned mitigation measures.
Further, low and middle-income countries tend to prioritize import restrictions based on vehicle age (e.g. Gabon) along with instruments to improve fleet fuel efficiency (e.g. eco-driving in Cambodia, fuel efficient vehicle incentives in Grenada and Cameroon). Middle-income countries also prioritize improvement in inspection and maintenance, fuel quality and vehicle emission standards, which could provide significant reductions in air pollutants. In addition, proposed green freight measures involve shifting from road to railways and waterways.
While about 63% of NDCs propose transport sector mitigation measures; a much smaller share of NDCs (9%) have proposed a transport sector emission reduction target, which in some cases exceed the ambition of economy-wide targets (e.g. Burkina Faso and Trinidad and Tobago have set transport reduction targets that are at least twice as intensive as economy-wide emission reduction targets).
In addition, 8% of NDCs include national transport business-as-usual (BAU) emission projections, and 12% of NDCs include estimates of country-level transport mitigation potential In addition, a number of countries have established indirect transport emission reduction targets in their NDCs, which target complementary variables such as public transport mode share, renewable energy share, fuel consumption reduction, or fuel efficiency as a means to reach desired emission reductions.
Analysis of the NDC targets indicates that implementation of currently proposed economy wide targets and measures proposed within NDCs will not keep emissions within a 2DS (for both economy-wide and transport-specific emissions).
Globally it has been estimated that roughly $13.5 trillion in investments in energy efficiency and low-carbon technologies will be required over the next 15 years to implement the NDCs. Investments required for the transport sector to achieve desired mitigation goals is highlighted in about 9% of NDCs, and for countries with transport sector emission targets, 29% of NDCs provide investment estimates.
Adaptation has generally received less attention than mitigation in NDCs, although being mentioned in an economy-wide scope in 160 INDCs submitted. The transport sector is mentioned in general terms among climate adaptation measures in 16% of INDCs, and 4% of countries identify transport-specific adaptation strategies, which focus mainly on vulnerability assessments and infrastructure resilience planning
In summary, NDCs represent a unique opportunity to increase bold mitigation and adaptation measures in transport and other sectors, as for the first time in history, countries are communicating their intended actions to reduce emissions and increase resilience on sectoral scales in the context of the UNFCCC system. Maximizing national mitigation actions will require optimizing contributions from transport in existing NDCs through mechanisms to increase mitigation ambition in successive evaluation periods.
Recommendations of the report include the following:
The Paris Agreement’s requirement to increase ambition to a target of well below the 2DS and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels is a strong call to accelerate the decarbonization of the transport sector. However, recent assessments by a range of international bodies have concluded that current NDCs will not be sufficient to achieve a 2DS, and the Paris Agreement does not foresee substantive strengthening of NDCs for the 2020-2025 period, despite broad consensus that ambition levels in current NDCs are on a projected course for a 2.7 degree Celsius increase and thus are likely to fall well short of a 2DS, let alone a 1.5 DS.
In summary, if we have weak efforts pre-2020 and inadequate 2020-2025 NDCs, the transport sector is likely to be placed on a trajectory that makes it increasingly unlikely to achieve a 1.5DS by 2030 or 2050. This trend sends a clear message to all sectors that there is need for disruptive change in the area of decarbonization, as incremental approaches will not be sufficient to make needed strides in this direction.