Decarbonising Transport Sector

Context:  Recently Niti Aayog released a report titled “Towards Decarbonising Transport – Taking Stock of G20 Sectoral Ambition”. Highlight of the Report:
  • Responsibility of G20: The G20 countries are responsible for a significant portion of global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), making decarbonization of the transport sector crucial for achieving global climate goals.
    • India’s Emissions from the transport sector could increase by 65 per cent by 2030 and a staggering 197 per cent by 2050 relative to 2020 levels.
  • Lack of Commitment: Despite commitments to the Paris Agreement, the G20 has not given enough attention to decarbonizing and reshaping the transport sector.
  • Snail Pace Policy Impact: Notable reductions in transport emissions have not been achieved since 1990, and emissions have been increasing due to motorization around the globe.
    • Overall G20 transport emissions have grown by almost 6% in 2015–2019.
  • Geopolitical Pressure: Due to the pandemic and growing geopolitical tensions, the international commitment to climate action is currently facing challenges.
    • Tectonic shifts in geopolitics mean greater economic competition between China, India, and Indonesia, on the one hand, and the US, Western Europe, and Japan, on the other.
  • Fuel Subsidy: Overall subsidy levels are still distorting the market, giving carbon-intensive modes of transport an undue advantage.
India’s Transport Sector and Carbon Emissions:
  • Scope and Coverage: India’s road network is the second largest in the world after the US and it has the fourth-largest rail network globally.
India’s NDC Target: 
  • Committed to reducing the emissions intensity of GDP by 45% in 2030 relative to 2005 levels.
  • Economy-wide net-zero target by 2070.
Transport related NDC targets
  • Increase the share of railways from 36% to 45%.
  • Signed COP26 ZEV declaration for new car and van.
  • sales by 2040 (this also includes 2/3 wheelers).
Transport related NDC measures
  • Promotion of hybrid and electric vehicles.
  • National policy on biofuels.
  • Passenger car fuel-efficiency standards.
  • Promote coastal and inland waterway shipping.
  • Construction of metro lines, urban transport, and Mass rapid transport projects
Future targets at national level
  • 45% mode share for rail freight until 2030.
  • Double the share of freight transported by coastal shipping and inland waterways
  • 7,987 km of high-speed rail (in stages up to 2051).
National EV deployment targets
  • 30% share of EVs in passenger LDV sales by 2030.
  • 2,877 charging points in 25 states and 1,576 charging points across 9 expressways and 16 highways.
    • The total number of road vehicles grew at an average of 10% per year between 2005 and 2012 and continues to grow strongly, which, together with increasing urbanisation, has led to high levels of traffic congestion and air pollution. 
    • India’s total CO emissions from fuel combustion grew by 330% between 1990 and 2019.
  • Emission from Transport Sector: Road transport emerges as the major contributor to sector emissions, closely followed by rail transport. 
    • Transport-sector emissions grew 375% over the same period and represent an uncharacteristically low share – 14% due to high carbon intensity of India’s power generation.
    • With 1.6 t CO₂ for total emissions and 0.2 t CO₂ for the transport sector, India’s per capita emissions are the lowest in the G20. 
    • India’s rail transport’s share of sector emissions (nearly 7%) is one of the highest among the G20 countries.
  • Slow Progress on EVs: Despite the global push to transition to electric vehicles (EVs), India has only set a target for a 30% electric vehicle share in passenger light-duty vehicle sales by 2030.
    • It falls short of an overall emissions or energy target for the entire transport sector.
  • Lack of Specific Target under INDC: India’s updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) includes targets to reduce emissions intensity and increase non-fossil fuel-based energy resources, but it does not specifically address the transport sector.
Steps Taken to Control Transport Emissions in India:
  • Ambitious Target: India aims to increase the share of rail in freight transport to 45% by 2030 and intends to achieve a 30% share of electric light-duty vehicle sales by the same year.
    • India signed the COP26 declaration, setting a target to transition to 100% zero-emission cars and vans by 2040.Adopting greener policies in passenger and freight transport sectors to avoid up to 1.7 Gt CO₂e by 2030.
  • EVs Push: Among G20 nations, India stands out for its rapid and impressive evolution in the EV market.
    • Programmes: National Electric Mobility Mission Plan 2020 in 2013, followed by the Faster Adoption of Manufacturing of EVs (FAME) Phase I and Phase II.
    • These programs have allocated $1.25 billion to incentivize EV adoption through upfront subsidies and the development of robust charging infrastructure.
    • India has over 2.4 million registered EVs as of June 2023.
  • Fossil fuel subsidy reform: India which phased out price controls for transport fuels in late 2014.
    • From 2014 to 2017, India incrementally reduced oil and gas subsidies by 75%, while increasing funding for renewable energy six-fold.
  • Hydrogen Push: India launched a National Hydrogen Mission in August 2021.
    • Its target is to have 30 GW of electrolysis capacity by 2030 with related renewable power generation capacity, producing 5 million tonnes of green hydrogen per year.
Report Recommendation:
  • Prioritizing Transport in Energy Transition: G20 states should lead in decarbonizing transport by eliminating fossil fuel subsidies and increasing green fuel funding.
Power-to-X technologies 
  • It encompasses various processes that convert renewable energy into other forms of energy or fuels. 
  • These technologies include power-to-hydrogen (P2H), power-to-gas (P2G), power-to-liquid (P2L), and power-to-chemicals (P2C). 
  • Power-to-X technologies are essential for achieving decarbonization in sectors like transportation, where direct electrification may not be feasible.
  • By using renewable energy sources to produce hydrogen, synthetic methane, or other carbon-neutral fuels, these technologies offer alternatives to conventional fossil energy carriers. 
    • Fostering Just Energy Transition Partnerships and supporting power-to-X technologies for enhanced cooperation among member states. Adopting Power-to-X fuels: They refer to carbon-neutral alternatives to conventional fossil energy carriers.
    • These fuels are produced by using renewable energy sources, such as wind or solar power, to convert water and carbon dioxide into synthetic fuels like hydrogen or synthetic methane.
    • They can play a crucial role in decarbonizing sectors like long-haul aviation and maritime shipping, where direct electrification may not be feasible.
  • Greener Funding: Increasing investments to more energy-efficient means of passenger and freight transport can help shift consumer demand toward lower-carbon transport.
    • India has set a target to move at least 50% of goods via rail by 2030 and fully electrify its rail system by 2024.
  • Adopting “Avoid, Shift and Improve” strategy: This strategy emphasizes the need to avoid unnecessary vehicle tripsshift towards low-carbon modes of transport, and improve the efficiency of existing transport systems.
  • Sustainable Mobility: The transition to sustainable mobility will reduce energy consumption without limiting mobility.
    • Enhance the availability and cost-competitiveness of public transport and to support both the electrification of vehicles.
    • Electric vehicles (EVs) can improve energy efficiency by producing about 20% less CO₂ emissions than internal combustion engines.
  • Integrated system approach: Combining IT, transportation, and power grid expertise can enhance integration between power and transportation sectors, promoting decarbonization in transportation and the energy economy as a whole.
  • Role of Legislation: Countries must pass laws promoting new ideas, accelerating low-carbon system expansion, and holistic policies, addressing energy and land use linkages.
    • Ex: Public transport infrastructure is crucial for reducing GHG emissions, improving urban quality, and reducing congestion and fatalities.
  • Behavioral Change: G20’s 2019 Energy Efficiency Leading Programme (EELP) recognised the importance of “behavioral change”
      • Policies should promote eco-friendly, efficient transportation options like walking, cycling, and public transport, while promoting electric vehicles.
Just Energy Transition Partnerships 
  • It is a collaboration between G20 member states that aim to support the market ramp-up of power-to-X technologies.
  • These partnerships involve adopting ambitious policies, increasing funding, and providing guarantees for investors.
  • The goal is to produce green power-to-X fuels in substantial quantities, which can replace conventional fossil energy carriers with carbon-neutral alternatives.
 News SourceNITI Aayog
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