New report gives green light to the feasibility of halving carbon emissions from new cars by 2030

25 January 2011

Halving the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from new cars by 2030 (and from all cars on the road by 2050) is a realistic target, according to a report released today.

The new study, sponsored by the Global Fuel Economy Initiative (GFEI) of which the IEA is a partner, assesses progress being made and the prospects of reaching a reduction in fuel consumption of 50% by 2050. It draws on on-going research and developments which have taken place over the last year and finds that the required technology is available to design and produce new cars that pump significantly less CO2 into the atmosphere.

“Whilst a 50% improvement in fuel economy may be very difficult to achieve in countries starting from such relatively [fuel-efficient] fleets as India today, some regions such as the European Union are on a path for greater than 50% improvement,” the report concludes. 

“Overall, since currently about two-thirds of new cars are sold in the OECD, the 50% target still appears appropriate and achievable on a worldwide basis.”

Creating the right environment

The report recommends that countries should create regulatory and fiscal environments that encourage manufacturers to use new technologies to improve the fuel economy of car models, rather than using them to enable heavier vehicle designs or boosting performance, neither of which reduces fuel consumption.

Dr George Eads, the report’s author, stresses that it is important for countries that have not already done so to develop national fuel economy initiatives. “This will ensure that the necessary fiscal and regulatory environments are in place to achieve significantly improved fuel economy.”


The bold target of slashing car emissions over the next few decades was set in 2009 by the GFEI, a group of four organisations united by a common goal of promoting greater fuel efficiency. The GFEI partnership, who commissioned the new report, is made up of the International Energy Agency (IEA), the United Nations Environment Programme, the International Transport Forum, and the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Foundation.

The GFEI argue that by creating greater fuel economy, not only will CO2 emissions be halved by 2050, but annual savings of six billion barrels of oil a year could be made by this date.

Since launching the 50by50 challenge, these four organisations have focused on four key areas to help countries work towards realising this goal. Their core activities are:

  1. Generating fresh data and analysis of potential ways countries can improve fuel economy standards.
  2. Supporting efforts to create appropriate policies, both nationally and regionally.
  3. Organising events for stakeholders (representatives from all related industries from automobile manufacturers to energy companies) to get together, share opinions and learn about new developments. A meeting of this kind has been arranged for 10 February 2011 in London, UK.
  4. Organising campaigns all over the world to educate both consumers and stakeholders about this ‘50by50’ initiative.

“The GFEI is providing a critical function in terms of raising awareness on this issue and assisting governments in developing policies. Many countries currently have no fuel economy policies whatsoever,” said Lew Fulton, a Senior Transport Energy Analyst at the IEA, who attended the launch of this report in Washington DC.

“This positive assessment on whether or not the world can achieve the GFEI’s target is a big step forward. Now that we have confirmation that car fuel consumption can be cut significantly over the next few decades with technologies that are readily available, we must continue building momentum to ensure this happens,” Mr Fulton emphasised.

Factbox: Q & A

How many cars will be on the planet by 2050?
According to the IEA Energy Technology Perspectives 2010 report, the number of cars is set to triple by 2050, going from around 700 million today, to a little over 2 billion by 2050.

How does the IEA work in the area of transport? 
The IEA conducts a broad range of transport research and analysis, which focuses on ways in which countries can improve the energy efficiency of their respective transport sectors and shift to lower carbon fuels. This work involves analysing technologies and systems which can be developed and adopted by countries to reduce dependence on oil and the amount of greenhouse gases produced by the transport sector. We also bring together representatives - from part manufactures to global energy companies - to discuss areas of mutual concern and interest.

Where can I find a copy of this report?
Full copies of this new report are available at This website also contains more background information on the GFEI and the launch of the new report.

Photo: Car exhaust pipe. ©GraphicObsession