Why does the World Need to Decarbonize Transport?

Credit: ITF


Moving people and goods accounts for one-quarter of global energy use, and the demand for energy from this sector is continuing to grow. This is due mainly to the increasing number and size of vehicles on our roads: more than 1.42 billion are currently in use, with an expected two billion by 2040. Road vehicles, most still powered by fossil fuels, account for nearly 75 per cent of total transport-related greenhouse gas emissions. Emissions from aviation and shipping are also projected to sail upwards between now and 2050. Flying contributes 12 per cent of the world’s total carbon dioxide emissions, while the marine sector, if it were a country, would be ranked between Germany and Japan as the sixth-largest source.

Why to Decarbonize the Transport?

Climate change cannot be stopped without decarbonizing transport. Transport emits around 23% of the energy-related CO2 that feeds global warming. Without immediate action, its share could reach 40% by 2030. Transport emissions have grown faster than those of any other sector over the past 50 years. Demand for transport will continue to grow massively in the coming decades. As a result CO2 emissions from transport activity will not fall, but could increase by 60% by 2050. And because transport relies on oil for 92% of its energy, it is particularly hard to decarbonize. 

Ambition of the Initiative

The Decarbonising Transport initiative helps governments and industry to translate climate ambitions into actions. Specifically, it:

  • Builds a catalogue of effective CO2 mitigation measures: the Transport Climate Action Directory.
  • Provides targeted analytical assistance for countries and partners to identify climate actions that work.
  • Gathers and shares evidence for best practices that will accelerate the transition to carbon-neutral mobility.
  • Shapes the climate change debate by building a global policy dialogue and by bringing the transport perspective to the broader climate change discussions.

Stream of the Initiative

 The Decarbonising Transport initiative is organised in five work streams:

  • Tracking progress: The initiative evaluates how current mitigation measures contribute to reaching objectives for reducing transport CO2.
  • In-depth sectoral studies: The initiative identifies effective policies for decarbonizing urban passenger transport, road freight transport, maritime transport, aviation and inter-urban transport.
  • Focus studies: The initiative analyses specific decarbonization issues and feeds the results into other work streams.
  • National pathways: The initiative assesses available policy levers for decarbonizing transport from a country perspective. Projects may also examine regional or sub-national levels.
  • Policy Dialogue: The initiative organizes global dialogue on transport and climate change through high-level roundtables, policy briefings and technical workshops. It acts as a conduit for transport sector input to climate change negotiations.


The Decarbonizing Transport initiative was launched in 2016 with core funding from the ITF’s Corporate Partnership Board (CPB). Other funding partners currently include the governments of France, Korea, Ireland and the Netherlands, the World Bank, the European Commission, the Climate Works Foundation, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the FIA Foundation, the International Road Transport Union (IRU) and the Swedish Shipowners’ Association. In recognition of the work of its Decarbonizing Transport initiative, the UN Climate Change Secretariat (UNFCCC) has named the International Transport Forum a focal point for transport under its Marrakech Partnership. In this role, the ITF acts as a conduit for the exchange of information between the transport sector and the UNFCCC, as well as providing inputs to the UNFCCC process.


  • https://www.itf-oecd.org
  • https://www.wikipedia.org

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