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Scientists demand strict and combined measures to reduce CO2 in road traffic

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By Christoph Hammerschmidt


According to the study, transport is responsible for almost a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, 72% of which are caused by road traffic alone. At the same time, the transport sector is the only area in which emissions are still rising – despite the fact that policy measures have been taken and announced to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement: Compared to 2019, emissions must be reduced by 30 to 40 percent by 2030, by 60 to 80 percent by 2050 – and after that they should be close to zero, according to the analysis of scientists Dr. Patrick Plötz of the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI in Karlsruhe (Germany) and his Canadian colleagues Dr. Jonn Axsen (Simon Fraser University, Burnaby) and Michael Wolinetz (Navius Research, Vancouver). The study, first published in the journal Nature Science, lists which national and regional policy measures can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from road freight transport in the long term.

The main conclusion of the study is that a single policy instrument is not sufficient; instead, an integrated mix of stringent measures is needed. Key measures include CO2 fleet limits, minimum quotas for zero-emission vehicles and quotas for low-CO2 fuels. These measures can be accompanied by appropriate prices and incentives.

As examples that have already been successfully implemented in the U.S., Canada and China, the scientists cite strict requirements on how much the emission values of all vehicles sold must be reduced overall by a specified date, and binding market shares for zero-emission vehicles such as electric cars. The latter are currently lacking in Europe. The authors recommend introducing the measures of these three countries in other countries as well. However, they emphasize that adjustments to national and regional conditions are always necessary and interactions must be taken into account. Possible negative interactions include, for example, the double imputability of electric vehicles in fleet limits and in quotas for zero-emission vehicles.


The implementation of measures at the national level has shown that, for example, a purchase premium for electric cars is only successful if it is relatively high and is valid for at least ten years: Norway has been promoting electric cars with 10,000 to 15,000 euros for 20 years, and these vehicles have a market share of more than 60 percent there.

Vehicle-related emission standards for internal combustion engine vehicles also help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the short term – and will continue to do so in the long term. The authors cite the European Union as particularly ambitious, which stipulates a maximum emission value of 59 grams of CO2 per kilometer for each vehicle by 2030. This promotes the switch to alternative drive systems, which means that emissions in 2030 are likely to be 40 percent lower than in 2010. However, in the opinion of the car trio, there is still a lack of minimum quotas for electric vehicles in Europe, which would give the industry long-term planning security. Since electric vehicles have so far been driven primarily by private individuals, the authors urgently recommend extending these measures to freight transport, for example by setting minimum quotas for electric trucks in manufacturers’ new registrations, as California was recently the first region in the world to do.

Patrick Plötz from Fraunhofer ISI emphasizes: “For long-term success, it is important to close loopholes such as unrealistic test cycles and to avoid unwanted effects such as extra-large electric cars. This can be achieved by strict controls and additional price incentives, among other things”.

More information: https://www.isi.fraunhofer.de/en.html

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