Improving the sustainability of passenger and freight transport

Transport has the highest reliance on fossil fuels of any sector and accounted for 37% of CO2 emissions from end‐use sectors in 2021. While it was one of the sectors most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, emissions resumed rising as demands increased and the uptake of alternative fuels remains limited. That growth is most notable in developing and emerging economies. Getting transportation on track with the IEA's Net Zero Scenario requires implementing a broad set of policies, to encourage modal shifts to the least carbon-intensive travel options, and operational and technical energy efficiency measures to reduce the carbon intensity of all transport modes.

Key findings

Global CO2 emissions from transport by sub-sector in the Net Zero Scenario, 2000-2030


CO2 emissions from transport rebounded in 2021, returning to their historical growth trend

In 2021 global CO2 emissions from the transport sector rebounded, growing by 8% to nearly 7.7 Gt CO2 as pandemic restrictions were lifted and passenger and goods movements began to pick up following their unprecedented decline in 2020.

Even with anticipated growth in transport demand, following the Net Zero Scenario requires transport sector emissions to fall by about 20% to less than 6 Gt by 2030. Achieving this drop would depend on the rapid electrification of road vehicles, operational and technical energy efficiency measures, the commercialisation and scale-up of low-carbon fuels, especially in the maritime and aviation sub-sectors, and policies to encourage modal shift to lower carbon-intensive travel options.

Electric car registrations and sales share in China, United States, Europe and other regions, 2016-2021


Electric car sales are accelerating, with China and Europe setting new records

Sales of electric cars reached another record high in 2021 despite the Covid-19 pandemic and supply chain challenges, including semiconductor chip shortages. Looking back, about 120 000 electric cars were sold worldwide in 2012. In 2021, that many were sold in a week.

After increasing in 2020 despite a depressed car market, sales of electric cars – battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) – nearly doubled year-on-year to 6.6 million in 2021. This brought the total number of electric cars on roads to over 16.5 million. As in previous years, BEVs accounted for most of the increase (about 70%).

Together, China and Europe accounted for more than 85% of global electric car sales in 2021, followed by the United States (10%), where they more than doubled from 2020 to reach 630 000.
Our work

Created in 1990, the AFC TCP seeks to make a significant contribution to address the opportunities and barriers to fuel cell commercialisation by fostering the development of fuel cell technologies and their application on an international basis, and conveying key messages to policy makers and the wider community as appropriate.

Created in 1979, the AMT TCP focuses on materials critical to fuel efficiency improvement for current and future transportation technologies. The AMT TCP conducts co-operative research activities on friction reduction, waste heat recovery, and lightweighting of vehicles. The TCP work programme includes the development of standard test methods, testing, demonstration and design guidelines.

The mission of the AMF TCP is to advance the understanding and appreciation of the potential of advanced motor fuels towards transport sustainability. This is achieved by providing sound information and technology assessments designed to facilitate informed and science-based decisions regarding advanced motor fuels at all levels of decision-making.

The Combustion TCP provides a forum for interdisciplinary exchange and enables international collaborative research to advance the understanding of combustion processes to: accelerate the development of combustion technologies that demonstrate reduced fuel consumption and have lower pollutant emissions in transportation, power generation, industry and buildings, and; generate, compile and disseminate independent information, expertise and knowledge related to combustion for the research community, industry, policy makers and society.

In operation since 1993, the HEV TCP provides a forum for global co-operation on the development and deployment of electric vehicles. It supplies objective information to support decision making, functions as a facilitator for international collaboration in pre-competitive research and demonstration projects, fosters international exchange of information, and it can promote projects and programmes for research, development, demonstration and deployment.

The aim of the Bioenergy TCP is to increase knowledge and understanding of bioenergy systems in order to facilitate the commercialisation and market deployment of environmentally sound, socially acceptable, and cost-competitive, low-carbon bioenergy systems and technologies, and to advise policy and industrial decision makers accordingly.

The Hydrogen TCP, founded in 1977, works to accelerate hydrogen implementation and widespread utilisation in the areas of production, storage, distribution, power, heating, mobility and industry. The Hydrogen TCP seeks to optimise environmental protection, improve energy security, transform global energy systems and grid management, and promote international economic development, as well as serving as the premier global resource for expertise in all aspects of hydrogen technology.