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Ways To Reduce Carbon Dioxide Emissions From Transport

July 27, 2009
Risø National Laboratory for Sustainable Energy
The most important way to reduce carbon dioxide from transport is to get the transport sector integrated into the overall energy system, according to experts.

Security of supply and climate change are high on the global energy agenda. And the transport sector is no exception as virtually every means of transport by land, air and sea uses fossil fuels and thus emits CO2. Energy consumption for transport purposes represents 20% of the world’s total energy consumption.

The most important thing is to introduce renewable energy in the transport sector and have the sector integrated in the energy system. By land, air and sea there are plenty of opportunities to reduce CO2 emissions.

By land

Private cars: The numbers of cars in the world are growing rapidly. In the short term it is possible to make the cars far more fuel efficient. In the longer term electric cars charged by wind turbines, for instance, seem to be a fine solution for the global energy system. In the long term, cars powered by fuel cells and hydrogen can supplement electric cars. Road charges can also help reduce CO2 emissions, regulate traffic and reduce local pollution. There should be emphasis on more kinds of alternative fuels, so that vital transport activities are not affected by supply failures.

Vans and trucks: So far diesel engines have been the most efficient way of freight transportation on highways. A good alternative could be gas. Today's battery technology is not suited for electrically powered trucks. However, the distribution of goods in cities can be done with small electric vans. Drivers can be trained in driving energy efficiently. Taxes and duties can provide better and smarter transport solutions with lower energy consumption.

By sea

International shipping: Accounts for 90% of the global transport of goods. In order to reduce CO2 emissions, shipping could be adjusted to a slower traffic, as well as a better planning of routes and logistics. This could save 10-15% of CO2 emissions. The ships can furthermore be constructed with better propellers, hulls with less water resistance and new types of smooth bottom paint be used. Wind and solar power can also be used together with better engine technology. This could save 10-15% of CO2 emissions. Thirdly, there can be legislation for achieving less CO2 emissions. This as well could save 10-15% of CO2 emissions from sea transport. To not distort competition, the legislation must be agreed on internationally.

By air

Passenger air transport: Passenger planes can become much more fuel efficient. Construction materials can be lighter. The air drag from planes can be reduced. Hydraulics can be replaced with electric engines. Solar energy can be used in a far better way. Efficient and climate-friendly fuel cells can produce electricity to all the electrical installations in the aircraft. Flight speed can be reduced, that is if the passengers are willing to accept longer flight times. As to routes under 800 kilometres, planes can be replaced with high-speed trains. Fossil fuels for aircraft engines can be replaced with biofuels.

The control of air traffic can be optimized so that planes avoid waiting at airports before departure or in the air before landing. The entire airspace can be used better, so that the planes do not have to criss-cross around the forbidden zones. Finally, you can legislate to reduce CO2 emissions from aviation, but it must happen in global agreement in order not to distort competition.

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Materials provided by Risø National Laboratory for Sustainable Energy. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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Risø National Laboratory for Sustainable Energy. "Ways To Reduce Carbon Dioxide Emissions From Transport." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 July 2009. <>.
Risø National Laboratory for Sustainable Energy. (2009, July 27). Ways To Reduce Carbon Dioxide Emissions From Transport. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 25, 2017 from
Risø National Laboratory for Sustainable Energy. "Ways To Reduce Carbon Dioxide Emissions From Transport." ScienceDaily. (accessed April 25, 2017).