Incentivising low-carbon travel

Topics: Energy and Low-Carbon Futures
Type: Evidence & submission papers
Publication date: May 2020

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Summary

Authors: Rosanna Hine, Paloma Ortega Arriaga, Ajay Gambhir, Lina Fedirko Heleen van Soest

Graphic showing different types of low carbon travel in urban areas with solar panels on the buildingsThis report assesses a variety of schemes that encourage low-carbon travel and disincentivise high-carbon travel, and draws lessons for governments, regulators, businesses and philanthropy.

Introduction

To achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions to deliver the Paris Agreement’s goals, all sectors must undergo deep emissions reductions. Approximately one-quarter of global CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion come from the transport sector. Transport  will be challenging to fully decarbonise in the coming decades, owing to the difficulty in substituting low- for high-carbon fuels in freight, aviation and shipping, as well as infrastructural inertia.

A relatively underexplored opportunity to reduce emissions in the transport sector is through behavioural and societal changes, specifically by encouraging and incentivising lower-carbon travel choices and through disincentivising higher-carbon choices. A variety of studies have considered longer-term behaviour changes in sectors including transport, to achieve ambitious climate targets, but such behaviour change scenarios are not yet mainstream in the climate change mitigation literature.  

The emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic and the imposition of lockdowns across the world have given rise to significant changes in the transport sector, with a large share of personal and business travel replaced by online interactions and activities. This has resulted in considerable reductions in both greenhouse gas emissions as well as local air pollution, and highlighted the potential of longer-term behavioural change in the transport sector to contribute to addressing climate change.  

This report assesses the effectiveness and replicability of a variety of schemes that encourage low-carbon travel and disincentivise high-carbon travel, and draws lessons for governments, regulators, businesses and philanthropy. 

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[Image credit: Si-Gal]