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Results - Transport

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Land transport is a major emitter of greenhouse gas emissions and one of the most difficult sectors to decarbonise. Often viewed as hard-to-abate due to its heavy reliance on fossil fuels (IEA, 2022), this sector faces complex stakes and challenges when it comes to its decarbonisation, but appropriate mitigation strategies could put transport back on track to alignment with the Paris Agreement goal.


Global Governance

Accordion items

Drawing on a review of available policy documents and secondary literature, we assess the extent to which international governance can promote the transformation of land transport towards sustainability and decarbonisation. We find that the overall international governance potential in the area of sustainable mobility remains underexploited. We explore below how international governance may be enhanced in the land transport sector and offer some concrete options to this end, including institutional reform as well as the potential creation of a new institution in the form of a climate club.


Our paper “On the Road to Somewhere? Assessing Climate Governance Gaps and Options for the Land Transport Sector (Deliverable 6.1d)” analyses the extent to which international governance can promote the transformation of land transport towards sustainability and deep decarbonisation. First, the paper summarises the key transformation barriers to decarbonisation in land transport. Second, the paper discusses the potential of international governance to overcome these barriers, mapped against six governance functions. Third, the paper discusses the extent to which international institutions have already exploited the governance potential identified in the foregoing section. This discussion leads to an identification of existing governance gaps and unexploited potentials. In a final step, the paper explores options for advancing the global governance of land transport and addressing the identified gaps by discussing proposals for the reform of existing institutions, as well as the creation of new institutions.


The current governance landscape is characterised by a high number of international institutions and initiatives, including UN bodies, multi-stakeholder partnerships, and city networks. In recent years, various initiatives dedicated specifically to the decarbonisation of transport have emerged, increasing the supply of targeted governance.

overview of governance landscape




The paper has identified a number of significant and remaining governance gaps, specifically, the lack of: (1) an authoritative and centralised decarbonisation roadmap for transport, including the absence of a government-backed net-zero target; (2) international requirements in the form of emission targets, for countries to decarbonise land transport; (3) concrete, internationally coordinated phase-out dates for fossil-fuelled vehicles; and (4) international transparency requirements that track sector-specific progress at the country level. Our assessment finds that global governance holds significant potential to address these gaps and ultimately advance the decarbonisation of the land transport sector.



Several of these governance gaps can be addressed through institutional reform of the UNFCCC. Our analysis finds that the new work programme to scale up mitigation ambition and implementation before 2030 could offer a fitting framework to develop an authoritative roadmap and international net-zero target for the transport sector. We propose that the new work programme could also provide a possible avenue to integrate transport-specific commitments into NDCs, potentially in the form of emissions budgets. However, we also suggest that parties could use future COP sessions as platforms to advance further initiatives and frontrunner alliances, particularly in the form of a new Breakthrough for land transport. In addition, we propose that the new work programme also presents a promising way forward to enhance the tracking of sector-specific progress in countries.

UN solution


In terms of addressing the lack of concrete rules concerning vehicle regulations however, our analysis finds that this will require the establishment of a new institution. To this end, we propose the creation of a potential climate club focused on electric mobility, that includes explicit phase-out dates for conventional vehicles.

climate club transport


Decarbonisation Challenges and Policy Options (freight transport)

Accordion items

Despite the fact that freight represents 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, current strategies to diminish this sub-sector’s emissions are far from being sufficient to meet this objective. Additionally, past research often addresses only some modes of transportation or aspects of the transition. Adopting such a segmented approach could lead to putting aside some of the systemic changes which should be implemented, such as the spatial reconfiguration of supply chains. Moreover, it could result in the identification of measures which may have a negative rebound effect on other necessary transformations. Consequently, it is challenging for policymakers to pinpoint the appropriate and efficient decisions that they must take to enable or accelerate the decarbonisation of the freight sector.


An integrated approach is used to analyse national freight decarbonisation actions. This approach is based on a pathway design framework which allows the consideration of all drivers of change, combined with an analysis of feasibility conditions and then of policy instruments. It has been applied and tested by in-country research teams in eleven countries: Brazil, Colombia, India, Mexico, Nigeria, the United States, South Africa, Australia, Ecuador, Norway and Iran.

The integrated approach focuses on the following aspects of the freight sector:

  1. Economic and social macrostructure (e.g., economic growth, urbanisation process, transformation of the agri-food sector, etc.)
  2. Management and operation of transport and storage infrastructure (e.g., port infrastructure and connection to international transport, infrastructure access, etc.)
  3. Logistics operations and delivery services (e.g., road and freight quality of service, digital innovations, driving conditions, etc.)
  4. Supply and adoption of low-carbon vehicles (e.g., transformation of vehicle stock, technical efficiency gains of vehicles, etc.)
  5. Supply and adoption of low carbon fuels (e.g., production of biofuels, competition between the different uses of biomass between different sectors, etc.)

Additionally, the following policy instruments are considered:

  1. Governance and planning instruments: policy targets, strategies and roadmaps, state organisation and agencies
  2. Economic instruments: subsidy/tax; loans; direct investments and procurements; market- based and trading systems
  3. Regulatory and “non-economic” instruments: standards and rules
  4. Informational instruments: reporting, training, awareness campaign, private and voluntary agreements


Existing literature (IPCC, 2022; ITF, 2023; Slocat, 2021) has identified various transformations to decarbonise the freight transport sector including:

  1. reducing freight transport demand and distances through the reorganisation of supply chains;
  2. modal shift to the least emitting transport modes and enabling intermodality;
  3. limiting the energy consumption of vehicles through technology and behavior;
  4. switching to low-carbon fuels.


Looking at rail, upgrades in infrastructure should respond to different needs depending on the country. For some countries, the overall rail transport network should be modernised and/or developed (South Africa, Mexico, Nigeria, Iran, India, Brazil). In other contexts, it is more a question of improving the efficiency and reliability (Norway, Brazil), or of cost (India) or access (Brazil).

Moreover, road infrastructure is also key in many countries as it is usually the most used transport mode. Modernisation and rehabilitation of roads is required in some countries due a lack of maintenance and the excess weight of vehicles (South Africa, Nigeria) but also for carbon efficiency gains (Colombia). Building new roads is also necessary to limit over-congestion (South Africa) and reduce distances (Norway) or facilitate the uptake of other transport modes (Ecuador).

In addition, port infrastructure is also a priority in some countries namely its expansion (Brazil) and improvement of operational efficiency (Norway and Brazil).

Lastly, some countries have also identified facilitating intermodality as being key, more specifically concerning last mile connectivity and development of waterways for India, and in intermodal facilities in South Africa. In India, uniformity in rules and regulations across different modes will be required to optimise the modal mix as well.

Considering all of these inputs, it seems that most of the information collected revolves around building new or improving existing rail and road infrastructure. Furthermore, there is little mention of storage infrastructure and almost no mention of infrastructure management and regulation. Yet, these two aspects are key to ensure that infrastructure does contribute adequately to the decarbonisation of freight transport. Indeed, storage infrastructure is essential to increase the flexibility and the ability for freight forwarders to choose the lesser emitting transport methods and facilitate intermodality. This is summarised in the table below.

Transport - feasibility conditions



The freight sector’s role in meeting SDG targets is increasingly recognised. For instance, the 2nd United Nations Global Sustainable Transport Conference recognised that it is an “enabler and necessary condition for achieving many SDGs” (UNGST, 2021). Moreover, the Sustainable Mobility for All (SuM4All) initiative highlights that a “clear correlation exists between the attainment of SDGs and the quality of a country’s transport system” (Sustainable Mobility For All Initiative, 2021).


In practice, policies related to building as well as improving transport and storage infrastructure are usually direct governmental investments at the national level. Larger governmental investments plans, include the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in the United States, which provides funding not only for transport related infrastructure priorities (including, roads, bridges, rail, transit, ports, airports) but for also for other core US infrastructure priorities. In India, transport infrastructure improvements in the different modes have therefore been one of the major components of the overall budget in the last few years. As an example, the Indian government has provided significant funding to electrify railway lines through the “Mission 100% Railways Electrification” policy.

Other tools rather than national governmental investments have also been used in some countries. Public-private partnerships are also sometimes considered, such as in Brazil with the Investment Partnership Program for instance. In Nigeria, the Federal Government has issued Green Bonds to raise capital for many different priorities, including afforestation and renewable energy but also transport.

Some governance and planning instruments are used in some countries, mostly in the form of policy targets. For instance, some countries have general objectives linked to infrastructure, such the National Logistic Policy in India, which aims to optimise modal mix and develop inland and coastal waterways to leverage the existing potential of water transport.

Regulatory and non-economic instruments (standards and rules) as well as informational instruments have not been highlighted as being key concerning infrastructure and its management in the countries analysed.

Transport - policy instruments



Overall, the analysis shows that building and upgrading infrastructure is identified as a key aspect to decarbonise the freight sector at the national level, but that varies depending on the context. However, management and maintenance will also be crucial and must be considered more thoroughly. Our analysis shows that economic instruments alone are insufficient to cover policy needs when it comes to infrastructure. Indeed, in addition to financing, this aspect of freight transport decarbonisation also necessitates governance and planning instruments to ensure that the financing is used in accordance with national context needs, but also to organise management and maintenance, which also requires regular revenues. Moreover, non-economic and regulatory policies could offer a large set of options to regulate the infrastructure access and are also under-represented, as policy levers for decarbonisation.