Flagship Programmes

Decarbonisation of transport in Africa

Decarbonization begins with a dedicated commitment to employing sustainable practices to achieve carbon-neutral electricity. As the world moves towards decarbonization in its fight against climate change, reducing the use of fossil fuels in homes, businesses, and on the road will be an essential step to achieve the energy transition.

Electrification, or the process of replacing technologies that use fossil fuels (such as coal, oil, and natural gas) with technologies that run on electricity, will be a key contributor to sustainability.

Transport industry is the single biggest source of carbon dioxide emissions at global level. To address this, there is need to adopt the ongoing wave of innovation which will open a range of exciting new possibilities for the emerging mobility ecosystem. A cluster of innovative clean technologies is coming together and will have the potential to mitigate some of the unintended costs of road centric paradigm. Transportation has the highest reliance on fossil fuels of any sector, accounting for roughly 21% of greenhouse gas emissions. Fortunately, the development of electric cars and buses are becoming drivers for electrification.

Taking a global view across sectors, the top drivers of decarbonization include:

  • Customer, employee and community demands.
  • Investor pressure.
  • Policy and government targets.
  • Technology and operational cost reduction – a more efficient frontier.

Decarbonization involves heavy lifting. For companies pursuing these goals, it requires a transformational shift in the way they operate: how they source, use, consume and think about energy and feedstocks and how they engage with multiple stakeholders. It also requires a significant financial commitment from investors and governments.

Mobility is essential for economic and social development but in its current form the transport sector in most countries is not sustainable. Pollution is among the most severe problems brought on by the transport sector, causing an estimated 7.8 million years of life lost annually which translates into about US$ 1 trillion in health damages globally. Transport is also a major driver of global warming, responsible for about a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels (IEA 2020). Given the vast vehicle stock in industrialized countries and continued rapid motorization in low-and middle-income countries (LMIC), the need to decarbonize transport is urgent. Electric vehicles (EVs) will contribute toward this goal, complementing other sustainability priorities such as a modal shift to non – motorized and public transport. Like other major technological changes, EVs will be disruptive, triggering major changes in transport-related sectors, which are a large economic force and major employer in most countries. These disruptions will certainly play out over the next few decades. Good public policy can ensure a smooth transition. Countries should therefore prepare for and promote the electric mobility transition as one critical element in an overall shift toward a sustainable transport and energy system.

While electric mobility of passenger transportation holds considerable promise for the future decarbonization of the transport sector, many policymakers are trying to understand whether it makes sense for their countries and, if so, when and how to pursue such a transition.

Electrification is only one of the ways to decarbonize the transport sector. EVs address the pollution problem but not other transport sector externalities, such as congestion, road safety, or the large amount of land that transport infrastructure requires. Electrification is therefore only one element in a comprehensive sustainable transport policy that involves such measures as reducing unnecessary travel; making non-motorized travel and public transit safer, cheaper, and more convenient; and shifting goods transport from trucks to rail or ship where possible.


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