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The framework for a climate-neutral transport policy

New EASAC report about decarbonisation transport

The existing instruments of European and Swiss energy policy in the field of mobility are far from sufficient to achieve the climate objectives of the Paris Agreement. This is the conclusion of a new report by the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC). The report focuses on road transport, which accounts for 72 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from transport in Europe, and recommends various measures.

Sign with CO2
Image: Stockwerk-Fotodesign Adobe Stock

The authors propose measures at three levels: Mobility in the area of people and goods, which is currently increasing, should be restricted to the necessary transports. Conventional motorised transport should be transferred to more efficient means of transport, such as rail or public transport. Above all, however, the design of vehicles must be optimised in terms of energy, drive technologies must be more efficient and fossil fuels replaced by renewable energy sources.

Decarbonisation measures

According to the report, a number of conditions would have to be met for the reconstruction of the transport system to succeed:

  • Switch to efficient modes of transport would be inconceivable without massive investment in public transport, especially rail transport.
  • Parallel to electrification, the increase in efficiency of conventional drives will have to make an important contribution over a transitional period of roughly 20 years.
  • The promotion of electromobility must be accompanied by the rapid development of new power generation capacities with very low CO2 emissions.
  • A decisive factor in this will be the design of the European Emissions Trading System (ETS) for CO2 certificates, for which the transport, industry and building sectors will compete in the future.
  • The decarbonisation of long-distance mobility will be the most important challenge in the next 20 to 30 years and requires the use of synthetic fuels such as hydrogen, methane and kerosene, mostly produced from renewable electricity. Building know-how with early support for investment in this area will be crucial.
  • The sustainability of various propulsion technologies and energy sources must be based on life cycle analyses in order to avoid a high CO2 footprint of imported components.
  • The net effect of digitisation (e.g. self-propelled cars) on environmentally relevant mobility indicators is still uncertain and must be continuously monitored.
  • Appropriate framework conditions and early policy support for innovation will be crucial for maintaining and strengthening the competitiveness of the European mobility industry.

Opportunities for Switzerland

The statements and recommendations are also valid for Switzerland. For Switzerland, the degree of integration into the European Emissions Trading System and coordination with European instruments in general will be decisive. Good promotion of innovation will certainly create opportunities for Switzerland in this transformation. This applies in particular to renewable synthetic fuels, since the Swiss population flies a lot and a long way and Switzerland is home to leading technology providers for international shipping.

Presentation on 5 April in Berne

The EASAC report was written by 18 researchers under the direction of Konstantinos Boulouchos, Professor of Energy Technology at ETH Zurich and President of the Energy Commission of the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences. It was prepared by a working group of the EASAC Energy Programme and accompanied by an evaluation process by all European academies. The Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences provided financial support for the project. Swiss scientists, in particular from the Swiss Competence Centre for Energy Research in the Field of Mobility (SCCER Mobility), played a leading role in the development of the project.


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