Interview: Transport Sector in Sustainable Transition


Interviewee: Sudarmanto Budi Nugroho

Energy Review, Vol 4. Issue 4. 2022

Energy Review: The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group III report signals that with the right technologies and accelerated policies in place, 40-70 percent of emissions can be reduced by 2050. In this context, can you explain the importance of new transportation technologies and related mitigation strategies that may effectively realize emissions reduction in the transport sector?

Dr. Nugroho: The mitigation option for the demand side of the transport sector can be achieved through changes in socio-cultural factors, systemic changes on infrastructures, and end-use technology adoption. Transportation technologies as one of the options of intervention to mitigate climate was mentioned clearly in chapter 5 (demand) and also chapter 10 (transport) of the IPCC AR6 WG3 report. Technology interventions have merits such as they can be applied in the short term and gives meaningful impact immediately. While for other climate mitigation options, for example, the systemic change on infrastructures, there is the need for a huge effort due to the lock-in situation, especially urban infrastructures; It is not easy to change or retrofit the existing infrastructure, even when it gives more meaningful impact in the long-term. The socio-cultural or behavioural changes also need longer time and also cohesive movement of societies to get the meaningful impact on GHG emissions reductions.

ER: During the initial phases of the worldwide COVID-19 lockdown, it was observed that the emissions from surface transport accounted for around 43 percent of the drop in total emissions, suggesting that long-term changes in mobility patterns of urban areas can substantially reduce overall emissions. Learning from this, to what extent have economies incorporated green transportation policies and incentives in their post-pandemic recovery strategies?

Dr. Nugroho: First of all, unfortunately, the global policies and responses for the pandemic and its recovery as summarised in the energy policy tracker has shown less proportion of policy packages going to green transports. On the other hand, the lockdowns implemented in many countries in response to the COVID-19 demonstrates that behavioural change at a massive scale and in a short time is possible and it has shown that behavioural interventions can reduce transport-related GHG emissions. The pandemic situation also shows the behavioural intentions to increase share of non-motorized transport (walking and cycling) globally. But, we may need a bit more time to evaluate long-term impacts of such behavioural change aspects alongside giving attention to the impact on the demand reduction for public transport share. We may also need to observe carefully on the possibility of rebound effects, especially increasing the demand for transport logistics and freight, due to the shifting behaviour of online shopping during the pandemic. A long-term analysis may be necessary to get an overall impact of the pandemic on the global GHG emissions.

ER: In your analysis elsewhere, you have pointed out the significance of Avoid-Shift-Improve approaches in the low-carbon transport policy of Jakarta city. Can you elaborate further on the crucial role of fuel-shifting strategies (especially towards biofuels) in achieving a just transition in the transport sector of developing economies?

Dr. Nugroho: Biofuel was mentioned in the latest report IPCC AR6 WG3 as one of the complementary options for decarbonizing especially land-based transport, long-range and heavy-duty trucks in some contexts and countries due to its availability in the market (already). It also could be applied in a short term and also likely could be more prominent for the decarbonisation of shipping and aviation in the future. However, the use of biofuel is context-dependent and also may have trade-offs with other sectors. It needs a feasibility assessment tailored for each country and cannot be generalized to all countries.

(Dr. Sudarmanto Budi Nugroho is the Principle Policy Researcher at the City Taskforce, Institute for Environmental Strategies, Japan.He is the lead author for chapter 10 (Transport Sector) and drafting team member of the Summary for Policy Makers (SPM) of the Working Group 3 (Mitigation) of the IPCC 6th Assessment Report.He specialises in low-carbon transport studies and urban air pollution studies in developing cities.)