The ambition for Net Zero emissions has a transport problem. Transport emissions keep going up when they need to go down. 

This transport problem is really a roads problem (>60% of transport emissions are from road vehicles). 

And that problem is really a private passenger vehicle problem, which makes up the majority of road emissions.

The Australian Sustainability team developed an Issues Paper (“Paper”) that analyses the road transport sector’s contribution to generating greenhouse gas emissions in Australia and New Zealand. Consult Australia Awards shortlisted this report in the superior sustainability category in 2021.

Cover page of the AustRoads Issues Paper

Their analysis identified that the transportation sector will continue to drive emission growth if left unchecked. A business-as-usual approach contradicts the ambition to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. 

Bringing net-zero emissions thinking to the transport sector is central to our societal ambition for mitigating climate change. The 2015 Paris Climate Agreement compels us to at least halve emissions by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions across the economy by 2050. Transport emissions contribute 20% of our emissions and are forecast to continue to rise out to 2030 at least.

To get to net-zero emissions, we need to solve transport emissions, which means we need to solve roads and private vehicle emissions.

There is a considerable focus on vehicle electrification as the primary driver of greenhouse gas emissions reduction in the roads sector. Still, growing electric vehicle sales are insufficient to change the emissions trajectory in alignment with the Paris Agreement.

Austroads commissioned an Issues Paper to assess how a greenhouse gas emissions reduction will impact road transport network operations. Additionally, the Issues Paper needed to frame the role that road network transport operations play in supporting the state and national ambitions for emissions reduction and identify network management levers for consideration by decision-makers.

Integral Group’s analysis, undertaken from September 2019 to March 2020, identifies the Global Climate Trajectories and the Paris Agreement goal to limit the temperature increase to no more than 1.5°C. It explores Australian and New Zealand policy landscape and identifies the level of ambition for emissions reduction within each jurisdiction.

The Issues Paper analyzes the role of transport and the road sector in driving greenhouse gas emissions in Australia and New Zealand and reviews opportunities for contributing to net-zero emissions in electric vehicle take-up. The Paper also identified other network management opportunities for emissions reduction and the potential co-benefits from a holistic approach to emissions reduction across the transport cluster.

The Paper highlights the need for a strategic rebalancing of priorities, including greenhouse gas emissions reduction as a key consideration in all road network transport operations thinking and decision, alongside road safety and transport network efficiency/productivity.

This Paper is one of the mechanisms by which Integral Group can give broader effect to its values and mission and has underpinned the strategic prioritization of advisory services in Australia and further entrenches the importance of its advocacy across the built environment.

The Benefits of Emission Reduction

This Paper identifies the global climate trajectories and the Paris Agreement goal to limit the temperature increase to a maximum of 1.5°C. Emissions reduction is a central goal of mitigating the impacts of climate change and maintaining the atmosphere within a range that is liveable for people and natural systems.

The three mechanisms for reducing emissions were:

  1. Reduce the need for transportation (a more minor transport task for the same outcome)
  2. Reduce vehicle kilometers traveled on roads (shift the transport task to cleaner modes)
  3. Reduce the associated emissions from each kilometer traveled (fuel efficiency and electrification).

The Paper considers several social co-benefits to emissions reduction in the transportation sector:

  • Improved health and wellbeing due to improved air quality
  • Improved health and wellbeing due to increased use of public transit and active mobility
  • Safety benefits from low-emission transport options
  • Affordability benefits of low-emission transport options

Noting potential policy levers for emissions reduction could have distributional impacts and should be carefully considered to moderate impacts by more targeted support to low/socio-economic demographics. Highlighting to the reader that the affordability of transportation services is a critical consideration in the broader transportation system. With a focus on emissions, the importance of the social accessibility of the transport system must not be lost.

The Paper considered several economic co-benefits of low-emissions transportation networks, including:

  • Trade competitiveness in a trade environment that address carbon intensity at borders (such as the EU Carbon Barder Adjustment Mechanism)
  • The lifecycle affordability of electric vehicles as well as the sectoral impacts on the ICE service industry
  • Positioning of Australian cities as leaders in innovation and the digital economy.

The primary economic benefit is a reduced impact from climate change, which threatens every economic sector, either with direct risks or risks through the low-carbon transition.

Integral Group’s Innovative Approach

Integral Group founded its research on its world-leading net-zero emissions work done globally in the buildings sector. This Paper seeks to apply the same ambition and approach to the transportation sector.

The approach drew upon a diverse set of skills – research, analysis, and forecasting:

  • Analysis of the Australian emissions landscape and identifying the role of transport emissions in driving emissions growth;
  • Market penetration and emissions reduction analysis of electric vehicles in the Australian market
  • Fleet transformation analysis considering how ICE vehicles exit the fleet under current policy settings
  • Future mobility options analysis for alternative emissions reduction opportunities and co-benefits for emissions reduction in the Australian roads network.

This engagement provided an evidence base for advocacy across Australian and New Zealand national and state jurisdictions to support ambitious emissions reduction in the roads network.

Advocacy and Support

The objectives of the Paper were primarily advocacy and support for policymakers in states and territories, including:

  • Demonstrating the urgency of emissions reduction and the implications of delayed action
  • Identifying the degree to which current policy settings in Australia and New Zealand were not supporting the stated ambition for net-zero emissions by 2050
  • Providing a range of opportunities for supporting emissions reduction in the roads sector and mechanisms for supporting implementation in road network operations
  • Identifying the co-benefit of ambitious emissions reduction options to support community health and wellbeing.

The Paper achieved these objectives through briefings with roads agency representatives and a public webinar.

View the whole Issue Paper on the Austroads website