Can the transport sector contribute to climate protection?

In the light of ongoing climate change, the substantial reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is absolutely necessary in the near future. This is a particular challenge in the transport sector since an increase in transport volume is expected overall.

The “Renewbility” research project

How can we in Germany guarantee mobility for all in the future and at the same time substantially reduce GHG emissions? This question was addressed within the scope of the “Renewbility” project, which was sponsored by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety and completed in June 2009.

The core project team was made up of researchers at Oeko-Institut (project leaders) and the German Institute of Transport Research (Institut für Verkehrsforschung des DLR). Other research partners – the Heidelberg Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IFEU), German Biomass Research Centre (DBFZ), and the Dresden Technical University (TU Dresden) – provided project support.

GHG balance

In the “Renewbility” project, material flow analysis was used to show the environmental impacts of different mobility scenarios for Germany. The GHG emissions are retraced and calculated along the life cycle of the vehicle and corresponding fuel, from usage, via production, to the use of resources.
This approach ensures that the emissions from both the demand side (i.e. mobility demand) and the supply side (i.e. production and distribution processes of vehicles, electricity and fuels) are incorporated.

Within the scope of a participative process, a group of representatives from the automobile, rail, power and logistics sectors as well as environmental and consumer protection associations participated significantly in the model and scenario development. In the course of the project, these stakeholders identified possible courses of action for climate protection in the transport sector and integrated them in a sustainability scenario (“Climate protection in the transport sector”) for Germany.

Sustainable mobility up to 2030

The goal of the “Renewbility – Sustainable mobility up to 2030 in the context of renewable energies” research project was to develop a highly integrative assessment tool which shows the measures and impacts of a future, sustainable transport policy and quantifies potentials for GHG emission reductions.
The linked, dynamic consideration of supply and demand in the field of mobility constituted a key new aspect provided by the integrative modelling approach. Within the project the interactions between the transport sector and the power sector in Germany with a view to the promotion of renewable energies were also explicitly taken into account. Last but not least Oeko-Institut engaged in close cooperation with the relevant social actors during model and scenario development.

The project covered road, rail, maritime and air transport within Germany. In contrast to climate reporting, not only direct GHG emissions of transport and fuels were considered in this context, but also the emissions arising in fuel production at home and abroad and in vehicle production.

The key goals of the research project were to:

  • develop an integrated model to demonstrate instruments and measures for sustainable mobility in passenger and freight transport, taking into account interactions with the power sector;
  • incorporate key social actors at an early stage in the development and testing of the model; and
  • develop a consistent climate protection scenario for the transport sector up to 2030, which incorporates the participation of stakeholders.

Stakeholder scenario: “Climate protection in the German transport sector”

The measures of the “Climate protection in the German transport sector” stakeholder scenario range from the expansion of local public passenger transport and electric mobility, via the tightening of emission standards for new passenger cars to 80 g/km in 2030, to increasing the lorry toll and raising fuel prices. In this way CO2 emissions in Germany can be reduced from 226 million tonnes to 174 million tonnes by 2030 – even though transport volume increases in a similar way to the reference scenario.

The emission reduction potentials determined in the stakeholder scenario and the increased use of renewable energies in the transport sector are based on an ambitious transport policy. They also mean, however, that significant emission reductions are possible in this sector.
Nevertheless, for improved climate protection the question should also be raised as to whether further or more far-reaching measures are additionally necessary so that the German government’s target to reduce GHG emissions by 40 % can be achieved by 2020.

With the help of the assessment tool developed within the scope of the “Renewbility” project, suitable measures can now be elaborated and, where necessary, further emission reduction potentials can be determined.