‘Paradigm shift’ to electric vehicles required to meet global climate targets

Zero-emission vehicles will need to hold a dominant automotive market share by 2035 for the Paris Agreement's global warming target of 1.5C to be truly achievable, research group Climate Action Tracker (CAT) has claimed.

report released this week calls for “substantial changes” in the transport sector in order to meet the climate targets set at COP21 last year. It is the first in a series of decarbonisation reports from CAT – an independent consortium of research groups including NewClimate Institute, Climate Analytics, Ecofys and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

Commenting on the report, NewClimate Institute’s Markus Hagemann said: “Emissions standards only get the transport fleet to a certain point—it is clear that in order to get to the Paris Agreement’s lower temperature goal of 1.5C, the world needs to make a paradigm shift to zero emissions vehicles.”

However, even achieving a dominant share of EVs in car fleets is estimated to not be enough to reach the 1.5C targets, CAT says, with the report suggesting that an ambitious decarbonisation of the power sector will also need to be achieved in order to ensure the vehicles are truly ‘zero-emission’.

Low-carbon pathways

Yvonne Deng from Ecofys added: “Aside from much-needed shifts in transport behaviour, for the transport sector to decarbonise there is no choice but to adopt zero-emission vehicles. For electric vehicles (EVs), this would mean that they also need to be powered by renewable electricity.”

The report goes on to suggest that, if the majority of countries were to double their fuel economy standards for new cars by 2030 – as well as achieve a 50% uptake of EVs by 2050 – then the world would be on a path to stay within the 2C global warming goal set out in the Paris Agreement.

edie put the report to the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership (LowCVP), which noted that there are “a variety of pathways to achieve decarbonisation on the scale required”.

“Electricification may prove to be a dominant pathway but there are other routes as detailed in LowCVP’s fuels and infrastructure roadmaps, which represent the stakeholder consensus about the way ahead,” a LowCVP spokesperson said. “The LowCVP’s roadmaps show synthetic fuels, second-generation biofuels, gaseous fuels and other options can also contribute to carbon reduction.”

EV escalation

A separate forward-looking report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance recently suggested that EV sales are set to sky-rocket over the next 25 years, estimating that EVs will represent 35% of new car sales globally by 2040.

If the global market shift towards EV is indeed this substantial, a significant expansion of charging infrastructure will be required. In the UK, predictions were recently made that EV charging stations will outnumber petrol stations by 2020 based on current trajectories. Electric vehicles are estimated to be worth £51bn to the UK economy if the Government decides to invest in the necessary infrastructure and upskilling the motor industry for the EV transition.

However, a recent report from the Energy and Climate Change Committee (ECC) concluded that the UK will miss crucial 2020 renewable transport targets and significantly damage its global reputation as a climate leader unless “major policy improvements” are rapidly enforced.

Alex Baldwin

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