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The best climate policy for road transport

The best climate policy for road transport

by Ulrich von Lampe, Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions are generated in the transport sector, and climate policies have so far failed to address them, especially those from road transport. And yet some international examples have been found of significant reductions in road emissions in stable economic conditions. A new study now sheds light on how such success stories came to be and what recommendations and opportunities for future policy can be derived from them. It was conducted by the Berlin-based climate research institute MCC (Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change) in collaboration with the University of Oxford and the University of Victoria.

The study is published in the journal Nature Energy. It requires an innovative approach to policy evaluation. Classical impact analysis focuses on evaluating individual measures individually, but in political reality, governments almost always implement bundles of measures that influence each other. To address this, a new data-driven approach has been developed to identify effective policy mixes. The research team looks at road emissions from 1995 to 2018 in 15 countries (EU before eastward expansions, including the UK), compares them to economic performance and population, and uses machine learning methods to identify “emission gaps” that are not. are the result of economic conditions. Finally, it determines which individual or interacting climate policies have caused these emissions cuts.

The sophisticated statistical method identifies promising combinations from the multitude of possible policy instruments. “We found only ten examples of successful climate policy intervention in road transport in 15 EU countries over a 24-year period,” reports Nicolas Koch, head of the Policy Evaluation Lab at MCC, and lead author of the study. “All ten cases are related to at least one measure that increased the operating costs of driving – usually through higher fuel prices through carbon pricing, but sometimes through energy taxes or tolls. In addition, in almost all cases the policy provided incentives to buy zero- or lower-emission cars. , either through car taxes based on CO₂ emissions or through subsidies.”

The magnitude of the ten emission reductions identified indicates the significant potential of certain policy mixes in transport, even if more success is needed to further reduce overall CO₂ emissions. The largest relative reduction occurred in Luxembourg, where the government was able to reduce emissions by 26% from 2015 through a combination of higher fuel prices and bonus-malus schemes for vehicle purchases. This was followed by Finland (17% from 2000), Ireland (13% from 2011) and Sweden (11% from 2001); Denmark and Portugal also achieved success with this combination. In Germany, the eco-tax reform from 1999 to 2003 and truck tolls from 2005 had a positive climate impact.

Looking to the future, the research team recommends increasing CO2 pricing in road transport, flanked by an ambitious bonus-malus system: moderate subsidies for electric vehicles and widespread vehicle tax rates for combustion cars. “In principle, the leverage of such a policy mix should be strong enough to achieve the EU’s declared target of climate neutrality by mid-century, even in this hitherto challenging sector,” concludes MCC researcher Koch. “The tools are available. What is needed now is the political will to apply them consistently, comprehensively and in the long term.”


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More information:
Nicolas Koch et al, Attributing agnostically detected large reductions in road CO2 emissions to policy mixes, Nature Energy (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41560-022-01095-6

Provided by Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change

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