Towards the green transition and mass zero-emission transport

In the global search for less polluting gas emissions, combustion vehicles have given way to electric mobility. But zero carbon transport is still advancing very slowly
In the global search for less polluting gas emissions, combustion vehicles have given way to electric mobility. But zero carbon transport is still advancing very slowly

Responsible for 14% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions , the transport sector is considered a key player in the effort to neutralize the release of CO2 into the atmosphere and combat global warming . But fleet decarbonization, even with recent efforts to accelerate the transition to large-scale electric mobility, has still been advancing slowly around the world.

Changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in the use of transport and national recovery plans open opportunities for governments and businesses to accelerate progress, as indicated in a report published in July by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). Despite the slow pace in the face of the need for rapid transition on a global scale, the sector is gaining traction as users choose cleaner transport systems and governments increase the ambition of their climate commitments, defining policies to meet the objectives of the Agreement on Paris .

“In view of the analysis of the importance of reducing emissions in the transport sector, the countries started to move and, since COP21, they signed several agreements for the insertion of electric cars and the fleets of electric card,” highlights researcher Felipe Gonçalves, Superintendent of Research at the Energy Studies Center of the Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV).

Aware of the importance of seeking more sustainable methods in the transport sector to reduce the emission of polluting gases, the countries have innovated in the development of business models that make it possible to overcome the high initial costs of electrification and reduce the associated financial risks. Europe recently proposed a goal by 2035 to end sales of combustion cars . The proposal is to replace the current model powered by fossil fuels with electric models. But it is still necessary to integrate solutions that allow the mass production of electric fleets.

For the time being, the green transition has not yet arrived with force, for example, in public transport. Its use in general even dropped during the pandemic. Public transport, such as buses and subways, had an overall reduction of 5.6%, according to the study Mobility Futures 2021: The Next Normal, by the consulting firm Kantar Insights. This is because, despite contributing to the control of pollutants in the face of pollutant alternatives for individual transport, they are not considered the best options in a context of necessary social distance, as they increase the risk of contagion.

However, more and more Brazilians began to see the bicycle as the best choice for urban mobility, and 67% of people would exchange their cars or motorcycles for cleaner transport alternatives. In addition, 92% of people want electric buses in their cities. These are some of the results of the Low Emissions Mobility, Air Quality and Energy Transition in Brazil survey , launched in December by the Instituto Clima e Sociedade (iCS).

The survey also points to a noticeable shift in people’s perceptions of fossil fuels, air quality and climate change . In 2017, 81% of people agreed at least in part that fossil fuels were polluting – in 2020, this is 86%. Petroleum-based fuels were also the main cause of climate change for 61% of respondents in 2017 – in 2020, to 75%.

For Gonçalves, the advantages of electric vehicles are many. “In addition to the smaller number of parts and total weight, the vehicle manages to have greater power in a smaller volume, without emitting polluting gases or generating noise”, he explains.

The need for a global transition to a transport sector without pollutant emissions is the highlighted theme this Wednesday (10/11) at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change ( COP26 ). Among the key points in the negotiations is the presentation of UNEP’s MOVE platform, which aims to accelerate the transition to electric mobility with initiatives such as MoveToZero , which will bring together commitments from the public and private sectors in favor of zero-emission transport.

MoveToZero aims to promote the acquisition of electric vehicle fleets before 2025 and constitutes the regional chapter for Latin America and the Caribbean in the Global Climate Group’s RouteZero campaign . In the region, the transport sector is responsible for 15% of greenhouse gas emissions – and one of the main responsible for air pollution.

In Brazil, the forecast is that more than 28,000 hybrid and electric vehicles will be sold by the end of the year: a growth of 42% compared to 2020 — Photo: Freepick

Future of vehicles and transport in Brazil

The theme has also gained momentum in Brazil, despite the fact that prices for electric vehicles are still prohibitive. To change this scenario, it is necessary to know which technological and energy routes should be followed, what the degree of fleet electrification will be, the role of biofuels and how the public and private sectors need to act to ensure Brazil’s insertion in this global change.

Given the estimate that, even in a more conservative scenario, the Brazilian market will demand millions of units of electrified vehicles by the middle of the next decade, reaching 432 thousand light vehicles per year in 2030 and 1.3 million per year in 2035 , the National Association of Automotive Vehicle Manufacturers (Anfavea) presented, in August, three scenarios for the future of vehicle motorization in the next 15 years, based on the Brazilian reality. Are they:

  • Inertial , shows the transformation of vehicles at the current pace, with no established goals or organization of the sectors involved in both transport and energy generation, in addition to the absence of public policies to encourage the electrification of automobiles.
  • Global Convergence , would be the fastest to accompany the movements that already exist in the most developed countries.
  • Prominence of Biofuels , a path that would favor green fuels, but with a degree of electrification similar to that of the Inertial scenario.

According to President Luiz Carlos Moraes, it is “fundamental and urgent” that the automotive industry knows how to direct its investments to the next generations of vehicles and to insert Brazil in global motorization strategies with a total focus on decarbonization.

“Other countries have already defined their decarbonization targets, as well as the paths to reach them. Brazil, in its role as one of the main markets for the transport sector in the world, can no longer waste time,” stated Moraes.

The study ” The Path to Decarbonization of the Automotive Sector ” also pointed out that it is necessary for the Brazilian government to establish policies to accelerate decarbonization scenarios, as is already the case in other countries, mainly in Europe. “It is possible to encourage the consumption of cleaner cars with measures such as lower taxation, or green tax, discounts or exemptions in recharge, tolls, blue zone, rotation and financing with environmental, social and corporate governance data metrics”, highlights the report.

Anfavea also highlighted the need to install at least 150 thousand chargers to service electrified vehicles, which implies an investment of approximately R$ 14 billion, in addition to spending on generation and distribution of energy from clean sources to supply the electric fleet . According to the research, carried out in conjunction with the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), with an adequate and well-planned industrial public policy, a new investment cycle will be able to be promoted in the next 15 years, exceeding R$ 150 billion.

This story was originally published on Um So Planeta, with the support of Climate Tracker.

Guilherme Justino
Multimedia reporter working for Editora Globo in Brazil. Guilherme’s favorite areas to cover are Education, Health, Science and Sustainability. He’s an Earth Journalism Network (EJN) and International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) fellow and he’s won over a dozen national journalism awards, a number of them related to climate stories written over the years. Stories he publish are supported by his cats, Mia and Elias.