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New plan to decarbonise Australia’s transport sector

New scenario modelling by Monash University’s Climateworks Centre demonstrates what a credible plan to decarbonise Australia’s transport sector could look like, going beyond electric vehicles. 

The modelling calls for a shift in the way governments plan and fund transport in the face of modest electric vehicle (EV) uptake.

Developing a credible plan to reduce transport emissions requires a shift in the way governments at all levels plan and fund transport – putting emissions reductions at the heart,” said Climateworks Transport Program Lead, Helen Rowe.

“The goal is to reduce transport emissions, move people and goods efficiently and create a sector that is resilient to the challenges ahead – this requires Australia to expand its focus beyond EVs.”

‘Decarbonising Australia’s transport sector: Diverse solutions for a credible emissions reduction plan’ from Climate Works provides diverse solutions to reduce emissions from Australia’s third-largest and fastest-growing source: the transport sector.

Rowe said as transport emissions continue to grow, solutions must be diversified rather than placing all eggs in one basket.

“This includes incorporating ‘mode shift’ – shifting the way we move people and goods to more sustainable modes – and reducing some unnecessary trips, for example through making freight deliveries more efficient.

“Investing in and implementing a diverse range of solutions can also increase transport choice, reduce congestion, and make travel more efficient and convenient. If the nation purely focuses on replacing every car and truck on the road with a zero-emissions option, it is going to get stuck with the same congestion issues.

“Traffic is still traffic, no matter the vehicle you are in,” said Rowe.

Report lead author, Lily Rau said focusing only on EVs with a “technology-only approach” could provide challenges like barriers to supply and technology development.

“Taking a diverse solutions approach is a win-win. It can pick up the emissions reductions slack if Australia’s zero-emissions vehicle uptake is not rapid enough. If uptake accelerates, having a range of transport solutions will help deepen emissions reductions further for the entire sector and Australia more broadly.

“The good news is that decarbonising transport and improving the transport system overall can go hand in hand. Solutions that move people and goods more efficiently also cut emissions,” said Rau.

The suggestions are based on the governments development of six national sector plans.

These include Transport and infrastructure, Electricity and energy, Industry, Resources, Built environment and Agriculture and land. The government is currently seeking submissions to inform the Transport and infrastructure sector plan.

Based on the modelling, Climateworks recommended that the Australian government apply the following in developing a credible transport sector decarbonisation plan:

  1. Implement a portfolio of solutions, beyond EVs, so there is no single point of failure.
  2. Take every opportunity to increase zero-emissions vehicle uptake from current levels.
  3. Consider additional benefits beyond just emissions reduction when assessing different approaches to decarbonise transport.

In the report, Climateworks defines a ‘credible’ plan as one that:

  • supports the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C;
  • achieves better outcomes for the transport system as a whole; and;
  • uses all available transport decarbonisation solutions, as per the globally recognised Avoid, Shift and Improve (ASI) framework.
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