‘Total decarbonisation of transport is possible’

A total decarbonisation of the transport sector is possible. So says the findings of a 10-year German government-led project to find practical ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Spearheaded by the Öko-Institut, the ‘Renewbility’ project looked at solutions for all of Europe and its work was supported by German and Swiss-based research institutions but also by T&E’s German member VCD.

The project, initiated by the German environment ministry, has worked on the basis that if most – or all – greenhouse gases are to be eliminated from the developing world by 2050, and certain sectors (like agriculture) cannot realistically be expected to eliminate all emissions, it means sectors like transport must make maximum effort to reduce emissions. The project has had three phases, and the third phase has concluded with the message that a mixture of greater efficiency and renewable energy can see transport to complete decarbonisation, leading to environmental and economic sustainability.

The Renewbility team looked at a number of different scenarios for achieving near-zero greenhouse gas emissions from transport by 2050, with the aim of giving decision-makers various options. The main areas were efficiency issues, alternative modes of drive engineering, power modes and measures to make cities more liveable. But broader ideas were also considered, for example switching lorries to be powered by overhead electricity cables.

The researchers concluded that, unless there is a large move towards e-vehicles, attempts to decarbonise transport will have negative consequences for the economy. They say the best solution would be to eventually have only e-vehicles on roads, leaving electricity-based fuels (like ‘power to liquid’) solely for means of transport like aviation and maritime transport where they say there are no realistic alternatives. To this end, they encourage decision-makers to work towards the phasing out of the internal combustion engine by setting ever stricter emissions limits for lorries and cars, and increasing taxes on petrol and diesel.

From the start, Renewbility has included a ‘scenario group’ to model various scenarios for the future of transport in Germany. The VCD was one of 17 organisations taking part in this group. Gerd Lottsiepen, the main VCD representative on the scenario group, said: ‘The issue of “liveable cities” was one of the major parameters when modelling future transport scenarios in Renewbility. It is now eminently realistic to view the trend towards “use over ownership” as likely to lead to a significant reduction in the number of cars on our roads.’

For more information on Renewbility, click on http://www.renewbility.de (German language only).