Austroads confronts road transport emissions trajectory

Issues paper outlines sector's emissions contribution and need for action

Austroads confronts road transport emissions trajectory
Richard Delplace


An issues paper by peak roads agency Austroads highlights the incompatibility of the road transport sector’s carbon output to ambitions for net zero emissions by 2050 across Australian and New Zealand jurisdictions.

Decarbonisation of Road Transport Network Operations in Australia and New Zealand analyses the contribution of the road transport sector to generating greenhouse gas emissions and notes that, if left unabated, it will continue to emissions drive growth in Australia and New Zealand.

The paper further highlights the role that road transport network operations need to play in supporting the state and national emissions reduction goals.

"The roads sector has an important role to play in supporting the state and national goals in the transition to net zero emissions by 2050 as it accounts for approximately 14 per cent of Australian GHG emissions," Austroads program manager network Richard Delplace says.

The issues paper explores the policy landscapes of both countries and reviews several decarbonisation pathways in the context of the Paris Agreement’s goal to reduce the risks and impacts of climate change by limiting the temperature increase to 1.5 °C.

How Austroads harnessed telematics for freight route analysis, here

Specifically on freight, Austroads notes the sector is a substantial contributor to road-based emissions but has achieved some success in removing the dirtiest trucks from the network based on managing air quality, and there may be lessons in these policy levers for broader greenhouse gas emissions reduction efforts.

It sees improvement in logistics efficiency and supporting modal shift as critical considerations for road network managers seeking further reduction.


"Emissions are an important lens through which to view inter-modal design and location as well as the road-rail interface for Inland Rail in Australia," the report says.

Other efficiency examples include green freight digital platforms to minimise empty trucks or inefficient route planning, use of rail networks where accessible and potentially even incentivised rail freight schemes for the transport of goods long distances.

Another Austroads project will quantify the contribution of aged trucks to greenhouse gas emissions and health costs, "and review policy measures and other initiatives designed to improve the quality and renewal rate of heavy vehicles specifically considering freight tasks that most rely on end-of-life heavy vehicles".

Overall, Austroads sees the transition to electric vehicles across the road network as critical initiative in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as highlighted in the recently released Technology Investment Roadmap Discussion Paper: A Framework to Accelerate Low Emissions Technologies from the Australian Commonwealth Government.

"Policy makers and road transport network operators can have real impact on the road sector’s decarbonisation; crucially, policy interventions to support electric vehicle sales and the early retirement of inefficient internal combustion engine vehicles from the fleet are required to substantially reduce road transport emissions by 2050," Delplace says.

"However, the accelerated adoption of low and zero-emission vehicles must be supplemented with efficient and holistic approach to road transport network operations, planning and management.

"This includes encouraging behaviour change with respect to mode choice, supporting strategic planning for efficient freight networks and supporting active transport.

"While reducing emissions is essential to reducing the risks associated with climate change, additional benefits include health benefits related to air quality improvements and more active travel modes, competitiveness benefits and broader economic benefits.

The findings will inform Austroads’ upcoming strategic review of the Guide to Traffic Management and future research within the Network Program.

The issues paper is available here.


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