Climate friendly transport is possible

The climate crisis is one of several major challenges facing humanity. According to the IPCC reports, to meet the Paris Climate Agreement commitments, it is necessary to stop anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by approximately 2050. Moreover, it is important also to cut them by half already by 2030.

Transport is responsible for a significant share of GHG emissions (over 16% of all GHG emissions in the world). Only 4% of energy consumption in transport is now provided by renewable energy sources. Developed technical solutions for decarbonisation of all transport modes exist (see the brochure “Carbon-free Transport”). These solutions include complete elimination of fossil fuels in transport, electrification of a large part of cars and parts of other transport modes, and transition to synthetic "green" fuels in those transport modes that cannot be electrified (for example, medium- and long range ships and aircraft). Instead of synthetic fuels, the use of biofuels is acceptable, but only if these biofuels are produced by methods that do not contradict the principles of sustainable development (for example, from unavoidable waste). The use of agricultural "energy" crops for production of transport biofuels is unacceptable.


There is a general principle for prioritising actions in reducing negative impacts of any phenomenon. It is summarised in three words: avoid, reduce, improve. As applied to transport, this hierarchy of priorities is as follows:

• avoid unnecessary travel and transportation (prefer to walk or cycle where possible, buy local products, avoid unnecessary long trips, etc.);

• reduce the number and length of trips, volumes and distances of cargo transportation, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the negative impact of transport on the environment and society by switching to more efficient transport modes;

• improve the performance of vehicles (switch to vehicles that use renewable energy sources and abandon fossil fuels).


Reduce and avoid unnecessary travel and transportation


Smart urban planning can significantly reduce travel and transportation. The absence or lack of social infrastructure elements in the neighbourhood (shops, cultural institutions, administrative offices, etc.), location of retail outlets and social infrastructure elements far from public transport stops, location of large retail outlets outside the city are examples of the so-called functional segregation.


Uniform distribution of jobs throughout the city, locating of jobs within walking distance, creation of jobs with the possibility to work from home create additional opportunities to reduce the number of trips.


Proper urban planning also includes the provision of convenient and safe travel on foot, on bicycles and other means of active mobility (scooters, skateboards, etc.).


Modal shift to more climate-friendly transport modes


In terms of climate friendliness (in order of increasing GHG emissions), the modes of human mobility can be arranged in the following order:

• trips on foot and with small individual non-motorized vehicles (bicycle, scooter, skateboard, etc.);

• small individual motorized vehicles (electric bicycle, electric scooter, segway, hoverboard, etc.);

• water transport;

• rail transport;

• trolleybuses;

• buses;

• cars with passengers;

• airplanes;

• passenger cars with a driver only.


Giving preference to more climate-friendly modes of transport (the so-called modal shift) is an important measure in transport decarbonising. In the future, decarbonised transport will require massive amounts of renewable energy. If the most energy-efficient modes of transport are not used, the transport decarbonising becomes almost impossible. Suffice it to say that by using a car instead of public transport, a person consumes daily more energy for transport (and, accordingly, emits more GHGs) than as a result of using all other life support (heating, hot water, cooking, electrical appliances).


Besides, technical solutions for transport decarbonisation are complex and will not be able to halve transport GHG emissions by 2030. Therefore, it is extremely important to accelerate the reduction of fossil fuel consumption in transport by switching to energy efficient modes of transport, in addition to reducing transport needs and increasing the energy efficiency of individual vehicles.


Development of the public transport network, increasing its comfort and speed etc., and other measures would be an additional motivation for the wider use of public transport instead of private cars. Combined with restrictions for entry into city centers by private cars (used in many cities around the world), this would contribute to the modal shift. The restriction on entry to city centers alone would reduce global GHG emissions by 82 MtCO2e per year.


Other methods to reduce GHG emissions from transport exist, such as lowering the speed limit for cars. Energy consumption increases proportionally to the square of the vehicle speed. On a global scale, reducing the speed limit for cars by 10 km/h would save more than 20 million tons of oil products per year. It would also improve road safety.


Greater use of work from home when possible and teleconferencing instead of traveling to international conferences would also reduce transport contribution to the climate crisis. During the lockdowns associated with the COVID pandemic, GHG emissions from land transport fell globally by 40%.


Zero GHG emissions from transport by 2050


Since the average life of cars is about 15 years, it is necessary to completely ban the production and sale of new cars with internal combustion engines (ICE) no later than 2035 (including hybrid cars) in order to achieve zero GHG emissions from cars by 2050, and from 2050 to ban the use of fossil fuels in vehicles. Similar decisions have already been taken by many countries. In the period up to 2050, it is necessary to introduce and constantly tighten the standards for GHG emissions from cars per 100 km.


What needs to be done to decarbonise transport in Russia


Measures that would contribute to transport decarbonisation in Russia can be split into two groups: (1) contributing to the gradual reduction of GHG emissions and (2) ensuring the absence of GHG emissions starting from 2050.


The first group includes:

- Changing the standards for planning settlements and tightening control over the implementation of these standards in terms of providing the population with elements of social infrastructure within walking distance.

- Development of mobility on foot and with small individual non-motorized and motorized vehicles.

- Development of public transport (improving its comfort and accessibility, reducing intervals, etc.).

- Introduction and application of incentives and subsidies for the purchase of electric vehicles.

- Introduction of restrictive standards for CO2 emissions by vehicles per 100 kilometers and their regular tightening (every five years).

- Restriction of vehicle entry to city centers.

- Reducing the speed limit in populated areas from 60 to 50 km/h.

- Reducing the non-penalized value of overspeeding from 20 to 5 km/h.


The second group of measures includes:

- Ban on the sale of new ICE vehicles (including hybrids) from 2035.

- Ban on using ICE vehicles (including hybrids) from 2050.


Full transport decarbonisation is not easy. It requires a radical restructuring of the car industry, service infrastructure and the energy system. With 28 years left for this restructuring, quick and strong action must be taken.


A. Fedorov