I’ve been meaning to post this item from Sean Kidney’s authoritative Climate Change blog, from the December Copenhagen Conference, which succinctly scopes some of the infrastructure and behavioural changes we’ll need to see in coming decades:

I’ve just come from a sobering presentation in Copenhagen by Yuki Tanaka and others of the Japanese Institution of Transport Policy Studies. They have done detailed modeling of global transport emissions and how we can reduce them by 2050.They’ve done different scenarios, and have settled on pushing for keeping emissions at 2000 levels because they believe the lower scenarios are not likely to be achieved. I started off sceptically, thinking “we’ll need to figure out how to do better than that”. But by the end of the presentation, overwhelmed by the robustness of their research, I can see why they made that decision.

Bear in mind this is in the context of rapidly growing economies in Asia and Latin America.

Key points:

To keep emissions just at 2000 levels will require:

– Cars: an enormous 60% shift of passenger traffic from cars to rail and bus. In cities 80% of remaining cars and 40% of light trucks will be electric by 2050.

– Aviation: half of all sub-1600km trips shift to high-speed rail systems, plus 20-30% fuel saving technology improvements in aviation. They do also include some shifting to technologies like video-conferencing.

– Shipping: 30% reduction in emissions, largely through large scale engine replacement around 2020, when a disproportionate portion of the world’s fleet comes up for renewal.

– Bikes: for short-distance trips there’ll be a substantial increase in non-vehicle transport – e.g. bicycles – helped by congestion charges and other traffic control techniques in all major cities.

– Rail: large scale electrification of railways and various substantial improvements in rail efficiency. There will be a doubling (yes!) of kms of rail lines in the world by 2050. They have also assumed that the power grid shifts largely to clean energy during this period.<

The net extra investment needed above “business as usual investment” already expected is just under US$12 trillion, 54% in developing countries. And this just to keep at 2000 level emissions!

On the optimistic side, if we can ensure, with some tough government planning decisions that help ensure these investments pay a good return for pension funds, then it’s a huge financing opportunity.

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