The International Transport Forum has released its latest projections for global transport activity, warning that traffic emissions are set to rise significantly compared to 2015 “even if existing commitments to decarbonise transport are fully implemented”.

The sister organisation of the OECD has published its biennial ITF Transport Outlook 2021 report, which forecasts that global transport activity will more than double by 2050, resulting in “any currently expected emissions reductions” being “more than offset by the increased demand for transport”.

A number of airlines and industry bodies have pledged to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, but the ITF said combined urban and non-urban passenger transport activity is set to increase 2.3-fold by the same date, leading to a 16 per cent increase in traffic emissions under current commitments.

However the organisation said that emissions “can be cut by almost 70 per cent over the 2015-50 period with the right policies”, and has laid out six recommendations “on how governments can set the world on a path towards sustainable mobility, achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement and support the UN Sustainable Development Goals”:

  • Align Covid-19 recovery packages to revive the economy, combat climate change and strengthen equity. Recovery from the Covid-19 crisis offers 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.
  • Implement much more ambitious policies that will reverse the growth of transport CO2 emissions. Governments must set ambitious targets in the 2021 revision of the Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement, underpin them with concrete policies, and reinforce them by leveraging Covid-19 recovery packages to accelerate and deepen transport decarbonisation.
  • Target different transport sectors with strategies that reflect their specific decarbonisation potential and challenges. Not all strategies to “avoid, shift, and improve” are applicable across the sector in the same way.
  • Support innovation to accelerate the technological breakthroughs needed to decarbonise transport. Technological advances are critical to effectively decarbonise transport, especially in otherwise hard to decarbonise areas such as aviation and long-haul road freight.
  • Shift the priority to improving accessibility. Transport planning tends to conflate increased capacity with improved accessibility. Yet travelling more and further does not mean citizens have easy access to where they need to go. Transport planning that serves citizens considers their desired destinations and focuses on how well transport options connect them.
  • Intensify collaboration with non-transport sectors and between public and private actors. Transport decarbonisation is inseparable from developments in other sectors. Sustainable mobility is only possible with clean energy. In turn, low-carbon transport is central to sustainable trade and tourism.

Commenting on the findings ITF Secretary-General Young Tae Kim said:

“I am proud to present the 2021 edition of the ITF Transport Outlook. It provides policy makers with insights from cutting-edge ITF research on the three major challenges of our time: the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change and inequality.

“It shows how they are linked, but also identifies actions – actions that are critical to ensure an effective and equitable transition to sustainable mobility on an urban, regional and global level in the wake of the pandemic.”