Making sense of the decarbonising transport puzzle

City authorities grappling with multiple constraints find it tricky to unravel the puzzle of decarbonisation. Eyal Li puts himself in the decider’s seat to work out how to make sense of the options.

Imagine that you are working for your city’s government. The mayor gives you a week to come back with three proposals to modernise the city’s freight transport. She emphasises the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to get the city on track to meet its climate target, to improve road safety around vans and trucks, and to accommodate the needs and desires of urban business interests who have opposed environmental programmes in the past. Of course, you accept the assignment but don’t know where to start looking for information.

Then you remember attending a session at the 2022 International Transport Forum Summit about a climate and transport policy database.

You make a cup of tea, open your computer, and search for the ITF database. Opening the Transport Climate Action Directory (TCAD), you find a list of policy briefs describing tried and trusted transport decarbonisation measures.

You filter the list to display measures related to freight activities appropriate for decision makers on an urban scale. You consult a representative from your city’s logistics business association, who expresses concerns about congestion and limited curb space for delivery drivers to park, load, or unload goods in the urban centre. After reviewing the related TCAD measures, you decide to propose three different approaches to improve the freight system.

First, you select an overhauled parking pricing system with designated curb spaces for loading outside businesses in the city centre. Second, you propose a pilot program to incentivise freight operators to shift deliveries to night time, which you would return to in six months to evaluate whether to adjust the program or make it permanent. Third, you propose allocating part of the city’s existing parking revenue towards a subsidy for logistics providers to purchase cargo bikes for city-centre deliveries.

Real-life results

All of these proposals address logistics providers’ concerns about congestion and parking. These interventions have helped reduce CO2 emissions from freight activities and improved road safety in cities that have enacted them, according to TCAD. You assemble a list of pros and cons for each approach based on information in TCAD and add the final touches to your proposal. You finish your tea and feel excited to share your everything with the mayor in your next meeting.

This hypothetical scenario is a great example of how the ITF’s Transport Climate Action Directory works. The TCAD is a knowledge-sharing platform to help policy makers at all levels of government make sense of the puzzle of cleaning up their transport systems.

The transport lens

Why does the TCAD focus on transport systems? Although greenhouse gas emissions from energy industries have declined globally since 2005, the share of emissions from the transport sector has increased, eclipsing the energy sector as the largest source of emissions in some regions.

Reducing transport-related CO2 emissions in line with global climate targets is a daunting goal that requires a multi-faceted approach to changing technology, behaviour, and land use development. To rise to this challenge, public authorities need policies tailored to their region’s socio-economic and transport characteristics. This is where the TCAD comes into play.

The directory is a collection of over 80 CO2 mitigation strategies targeting all modes of transport for different scales of implementation. The directory allows policy makers to browse policies by transport mode or policy approach, among other categories. Each strategy includes data from recent research on the volume of emission reductions relative to the scale at which policies are enacted.

Though CO2 impacts are the main focus of the directory, each measure also details costs, co-benefits, and political considerations to help readers gauge the suitability of the intervention for their region.

Evidence base

TCAD measures are developed on a rolling basis, starting with the selection of topics from public submissions. The TCAD team welcomes suggestions for new measures, as well as edits to existing ones, which you can submit on this webpage.

International Transport Forum (ITF) staff select measures based on their relevance to transport decarbonisation and on the body of available evidence to measure their impact. The measures are written by experts at the ITF, who explore the latest research on the topic from public agencies, think tanks, and academic researchers. The measures are peer-reviewed by external researchers with expertise relevant to the subject. TCAD measures are reviewed periodically and updated with the latest research.

TCAD is one of ITF’s initiatives to translate research into practical policy guidance. With it, we hope to encourage policy makers to increase their ambition to clean up and modernise our transport systems.

Eyal Li is a researcher focusing on land use and transport planning based in Berlin. Eyal’s internship with the ITF focused on a major update of the Transport Climate Action Directory.

Use the Transport Climate Action Directory

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