ITF forecasts global transport activity to more than double by 2050 

The  world population  is growing and growing with it is the demand for transportation. After the pandemic, demand for mobility will continue to rise. This means serious consequences for the climate — if there is no radical change in transport policy.

Global traffic volumes are set to more than double by 2050 and the resulting emissions are expected to increase by 16 percent — even if the current voluntary commitments to reduce CO2 emissions are implemented. 

This is the conclusion of the ITF Transport Outlook 2021, a study by the OECD’s International Transport Forum (ITF). It was presented ahead of the World Summit of Transport Ministers at the end of May 2021.

The report models scenarios for decarbonizing transport and their impact on climate change It also provides policymakers with recommendations to ensure a transition to sustainable mobility that is both effective and equitable. This year’s edition takes a special focus on the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for global transportation.

In this context, an economic recovery and a return of passenger and freight traffic to their previous growth rates before the COVID-19 pandemic are likely. However, the new projections fall somewhat short of the 2019 projections, which still assumed a tripling of traffic.

Freight traffic will increase even more than passenger traffic, which is projected to grow 2.3 times by 2050 (compared to 2015). Global freight transport is forecast to increase 2.6-fold (measured in tonne-kilometers) — with a projected 22 percent increase in CO2 emissions from freight transport.

In many (developing) countries, high populations of people still have limited access to mobility. The trick will be to change the transformation to climate-friendly transport in such a way that less affluent groups and regions are not saddled with disproportionately high burdens. With ambitious measures, urban agglomerations in particular could reduce their CO₂ emissions from mobility by 80 percent. More cycling, more public transport and car sharing are essential components of the well-known package of measures.

The report notes that the transportation sector is at a crucial point and that much bolder action is needed to expand ready-to-use measures to decarbonize freight to reduce both costs and emissions. This requires a range of measures to promote international cooperation, as the carbon footprint of freight transport is as important as that of passenger transport. In freight transport, better coordination of supply chains, such as shipment or freight bundling, and alternative (propulsion) technologies can reduce CO₂ emissions by 72 percent. Provided that stimulus programs to overcome the COVID-19 crisis are more focused on decarbonizing transport.

To effectively reduce CO2 emissions from transportation, investments must be made in the development of clean vehicles and energy sources to achieve breakthrough technological advances more quickly.

The 2021 study cites the recovery from the Coronavirus crisis as “a singular chance to combine economic development with shifting mobility behaviour and scaling up low-carbon technologies, while increasing opportunities for citizens by improving access through better mobility solutions.”

“In the wake of the pandemic, transport policies should pursue a threefold objective: aiding economic recovery, reducing harm to the environment, and ensuring fair and equitable societal outcomes. Aligning these goals will build public support for such significant interventions. It will also make them more cost effective and easier to implement fast.”

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