Pathways to deep decarbonization of the passenger transport sector in France
In November 2015, France has adopted its first national climate mitigation strategy (SNBC), according to the Paris Agreement, to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 75% by 2050 compared to 1990. This strategy sets up three emission budgets for 2013-2018, 2018-2023 and 2023-2028 with sectoral targets. The transport sectoral target to be achieved for the third budget compared to 2013 is a reduction target of 29%, but target estimates for 2050 go well below down to about 70-90%1, which means the transport sector is expected to achieve a deep decarbonization by 2050.
The transport sector is the main emitting sector and represented about 26% of total French GHG emissions in 2010. In our previous exercise, we developed deep decarbonization pathways for the whole national economy. However, this previous exercise did not allow enough granularity to understand the determinants of mobility and inform on key transformations of the transport sector. The exercise was mainly focused on the decarbonization of energy carriers with related energy-indicators, which are not sufficient to describe the evolution of the transport sector. During this new phase, the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project – Transport group defined and used a common methodology to analyze and develop consistent scenarios for the transport sector with transport-specific indicators like distance travelled by trip purpose, by location of people, by mode or budget and time dedicated to transport.
Two scenarios consistent with the 2°C target and SNBC objectives: MOB-F and TECH-F
Based on this methodology, the French research team chose to develop two scenarios for the passenger transport sector consistent with the 2°C target and the SNBC objectives, reaching both a reduction of about 78% of CO2 emissions compared to 1990, down to about 20 MtCO2 in 2050. These two deep decarbonization pathways embody contrasting futures of the mobility demand, as well as the supply-side solutions that will be necessary. The Mobility-First scenario (MOB-F) emphasizes social, organizational and technical transformations of the mobility system “first” and then shows how technological innovations contribute to the decarbonization of this new mobility system. MOB-F scenario integrates a demand decreasing effect linked to population aging, the development of tele-activities and structural changes in terms of urban and transport planning in suburban areas oriented towards the development of better public transport and soft mode services.
Conversely, the Technology-First (TECH-F) scenario takes into account the current mobility trends describing an increasing demand and does not anticipate fundamental changes in the mobility system. Therefore, it emphasizes technological innovations “first” and considers that low carbon technologies will provide an adequate solution for attaining climate mitigation objectives with an additional improvement of technological efficiency, the penetration of gas-powered cars and an extensive generation potential of liquid and gaseous biofuels.
The MOB-F and TECH-F scenarios have been inspired by the strategies developed for the National Debate on Energy Transition in 2012, respectively by EFF- and DIV-strategies.
Transport Deep Decarbonization Pathways – Results
Both scenarios require strong actions on the three pillars of decarbonization to reach over the period 2010-2050:
- Pillar 1 – Energy efficiency (MJ/cap):
- MOB-F: – 66% combining -19% for individual mobility (pkm/cap) and -58% for energy intensity (MJ/pkm)
- TECH-F: -45% combining +4% for individual mobility (pkm/cap) and -47% for energy intensity (MJ/pkm)
- Pillar 2 – Decarbonization of electricity and fuels:
- MOB-F: -66% of carbon content of electricity and 25% of biofuels in blended fuels by 2050
- TECH-F: -66% of carbon content of electricity and 61% of biofuels in blended fuels by 2050 (liquid fuels and pipeline gas)
- Pillar 3 – Shifting to low carbon fuels:
- MOB-F: 48% of non-fossil fuels in final energy by 2050
- TECH-F: 73% of non-fossil fuels in final energy by 2050 (Electricity, liquid and gaseous biofuels)
We provide in the following some details about concrete transformations occurring in our scenarios. The average constrained distance travelled could be reduced in both scenarios by 6 – 27% compared to 2010 level, due to specific incentives on the organization of living places, the development of ICTs, the level of modal services and a structural aging effect. The modal share of cars could be reduced by 36% and the share of public transport and soft modes be increased by 42% in metropolitan areas in the MOB-F scenario due to specific incentives on modal speeds, modal costs and the level of services. The development of electric vehicles could represent about 57-63% of new sales by 2050 and CO2 intensity of new cars could be reduced down to 21-35 “well-to-wheel” gCO2 per vehicle-kilometer by 2050.
Key challenges to raise the ambition for the decarbonization of the passenger transport
To avoid lock-in situations, policy-makers must track the ongoing transformations by using key quantitative indicators to inform on the policy implications. This dynamic form of management should support the selection at the right moment of the “policies that preserve future freedom of choice, yielding high option-value”2. For this purpose, we need refined indicators to track the evolution of the transformations of the main determinants of mobility and related emissions drivers as proposed in the “Standardized DDPP-Transport graphics” in annex.
The debate about the decarbonization of the passenger transport sector should focus on the future organization of living spaces and on mobility functions for people beyond being a pure technological debate, even if low carbon technologies are very important for the sector’s decarbonization. National actions for deep decarbonization of the passenger transport sector should combine different strategies adapted to the different regions and urban contexts, the purpose of mobility and distances related to different systems of mobility.
In addition, a number of key questions emerged from this work: both scenarios integrate a high share of electric cars by 2050 and bring many questions around the development needs for charging points and related power generation and distribution infrastructures; The implementation of teleworking could concern more than 7 million workers but how to ensure this implementation; The transformations of suburban zones require significant reforms regarding land use, urban and transport policies; Other key technological issues emerged such as what should be the place for biofuels, the place for air travel, the development of autonomous vehicles; What is the place of fossil fuels by 2050 in the car mobility and air mobility, etc.
In the perspective of a “carbon neutral” economy, the passenger transport sector could be an important contributor to emissions reduction. A pathway combining MOB-F and TECH-F mitigation options could lead to a deeper decarbonized future. However, all measures and transformations considered are not independent and the development of an appropriate scenario for carbon neutrality would need further analysis to test the consistency of all assumptions based on the DDPP methodology.