Transport

Tracking Clean Energy Progress

More efforts needed

Global transport emissions increased by only 0.6% in 2018 (compared with 1.6% annually in the past decade) owing to efficiency improvements, electrification and greater use of biofuels. Transportation is responsible for 24% of direct CO2 emissions from fuel combustion. Road vehicles – cars, trucks, buses and two- and three-wheelers – account for nearly three-quarters of transport CO2 emissions. Emissions from aviation and shipping continue to rise, indicating that these hard-to-abate subsectors need more international action.

Jacob Teter
Lead author
Contributors: Pierpaolo Cazzola, Apostolos Petropoulos

Transport sector CO2 emissions

	Emissions
2000	5.757330139
2001	5.788782784
2002	5.927863204
2003	6.061801968
2004	6.338642644
2005	6.473184126
2006	6.619485384
2007	6.82715492
2008	6.835590435
2009	6.702085503
2010	6.987265405
2011	7.091786215
2012	7.162347348
2013	7.358231685
2014	7.481625205
2015	7.699035601
2016	7.85123826
2017	7.985531305
2018	8.03432696
2020	8.096102647
2025	7.931631026
2030	7.325545654
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Back to TCEP overview 🕐 Last updated Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Tracking progress


The transport sector is in a critical transition, in which existing measures to increase efficiency and reduce energy demand must be deepened and extended for compliance with the Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS).

This process should be set in motion over the next decade, as any delay would require that stricter measures be taken beyond 2030, which could noticeably raise the cost of reaching climate targets. Combined efforts across all transport modes, accompanied by power sector decarbonisation, will play a crucial role for achieving SDS goals.

CO2 emissions

Although energy demand and emissions from aviation and shipping have been increasing steadily, they have also continued to rise in all modes of road transport (cars, trucks, buses and two- and three-wheelers). As a result, the road share of total transport emissions has remained relatively stable since the turn of the century.

Road transport emissions have increased despite progress in electrification: the global share of electric car sales rose to more than 2.5% in 2018, and fleets of electric buses and trucks are being procured in more and more cities around the world. Therefore, continued growth in emissions is due largely to:

  • Car buyers continuing to purchase larger, heavier vehicles, not only in the United States but increasingly in Europe and Asia. In Europe, the preference for larger cars, together with plummeting shares of more efficient diesel cars, is outweighing the impact of higher shares of electric car sales and caused the average new car CO2 emissions to rise in 2017 and 2018.
  • Rising global GDP, together with the proliferation of online commerce and rapid (i.e. same-day and next-day) delivery, which continues to raise road freight demand.

Transport sector CO2 emissions by mode

Direct emissions from transport need to peak in the early 2020s to support the SDS.

	 Passenger road vehicles	 Aviation	 Road freight vehicles	 Rail	 Shipping	 Other
2000	2.535501062	0.673749567	1.701686311	0.085600505	0.621249198	0.139543496
2001	2.587838249	0.656728212	1.721470782	0.082290771	0.596997808	0.143456962
2002	2.66557415	0.663804395	1.755210699	0.084139638	0.613686425	0.145447897
2003	2.75751036	0.660148859	1.772868341	0.086941279	0.633882046	0.150451083
2004	2.844065952	0.702584889	1.858302154	0.093784072	0.681737737	0.15816784
2005	2.875399451	0.72925171	1.899517718	0.099882774	0.704680259	0.164452214
2006	2.918504821	0.73742329	1.945958035	0.10457344	0.751052603	0.161973195
2007	2.99094962	0.756079475	2.014080125	0.104101185	0.789985428	0.171959087
2008	3.007970886	0.747582737	2.033957807	0.095429102	0.77774516	0.172904743
2009	3.01349685	0.708205814	1.99761053	0.082710221	0.751354074	0.148708014
2010	3.122169419	0.743415492	2.079648475	0.085704149	0.797045102	0.159282768
2011	3.12414859	0.765269383	2.135563084	0.095522732	0.811665152	0.159617274
2012	3.187843624	0.775463279	2.183382306	0.090692734	0.773216153	0.151749252
2013	3.293728829	0.796611421	2.242236141	0.091034508	0.775638359	0.158982427
2014	3.349538296	0.822667601	2.260004813	0.090098778	0.799047782	0.160267936
2015	3.475356365	0.868112958	2.28552291	0.090595931	0.81533146	0.164115977
2016	3.557280525	0.908688245	2.287407968	0.088670744	0.836853047	0.172337731
2017	3.600974581	0.925057922	2.335724894	0.089670925	0.853966939	0.180136044
2018	3.622372632	0.929524731	2.365826883	0.083518524	0.855098547	0.177985645
2020	3.642846903	0.937136163	2.406415817	0.077868138	0.857857156	0.173978469
2025	3.518936764	0.901761606	2.431086707	0.067010341	0.847371834	0.165463773
2030	3.112114055	0.871021721	2.295044116	0.058566322	0.830047979	0.158751461
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Note: "Other" includes pipeline and non-specified transport.


Energy intensity

Global transport sector energy intensity (total energy consumption per unit of GDP) dropped by 2.1% in 2018 after falling an average 1.5% per year between 2000 and 2017. However, to put transport efficiency on track with the SDS, energy intensity must drop by 3.4% on average annually from 2019 to 2030 – more than double the annual average rate of decrease since 2000.

For the transport sector to meet projected mobility and freight demand while reversing CO2 emissions growth, energy efficiency measures will need to be deployed to maximum effect.

Energy efficiency measures in transport can take many forms, including: managing travel demand to reduce frequency and distance, as well as dependence on high-energy-intensity modes (e.g. car and air); shifting travel to the most efficient modes; system-level and operational efficiency measures; and deploying energy-efficient technologies for vehicles and the fuels that drive them (e.g. electrification enables the use of motors that are far more efficient than internal combustion engines).


Transport sector energy intensity

Energy intensity will need to decrease more than twice as quickly as it has since 2000 to be on the SDS trajectory by 2030.

	World	Europe	North America	Central and South America	Africa	Middle East	Eurasia	China	India	Other Asia
2000	0.21199193	0.141414601	0.294124585	0.168859669	0.132761144	0.178130941	0.160073768	0.125322976	0.085682252	0.15110618
2001	0.208169852	0.140372137	0.292074103	0.167201701	0.131826482	0.186673599	0.156453537	0.118334649	0.081565616	0.152227983
2002	0.207368942	0.140015128	0.291061718	0.166644949	0.134022241	0.191863363	0.150679763	0.117014707	0.081170257	0.150388173
2003	0.203809233	0.139303978	0.28998052	0.163161502	0.133951855	0.175537187	0.143477696	0.120843099	0.076706805	0.147110611
2004	0.20253886	0.138106994	0.284891396	0.163496091	0.132764194	0.170982738	0.139782201	0.128239968	0.077100255	0.143956474
2005	0.197608204	0.13515234	0.279630557	0.161030872	0.125796395	0.176289019	0.130735968	0.124020879	0.074935436	0.136830745
2006	0.192418843	0.133345026	0.273837658	0.154590603	0.122176178	0.176972861	0.127343791	0.120647163	0.071714457	0.129612554
2007	0.18875228	0.131891835	0.272078915	0.154640609	0.121414621	0.17538386	0.117562919	0.1142126	0.077062011	0.127426931
2008	0.184697233	0.128938853	0.262487303	0.156658414	0.123706997	0.178588319	0.12066736	0.113831018	0.084572077	0.123808706
2009	0.183320987	0.131328164	0.260287743	0.158873221	0.125145794	0.186358383	0.128965242	0.107521971	0.085309432	0.128354759
2010	0.181710393	0.127997433	0.261540232	0.162419637	0.128142455	0.182951715	0.125512241	0.107146403	0.083515933	0.125323852
2011	0.177380788	0.123533396	0.251842129	0.163143324	0.128459413	0.177466633	0.124701129	0.107400449	0.084767556	0.126001344
2012	0.174244836	0.120918774	0.243978159	0.168933736	0.131611561	0.182759378	0.119987376	0.109827786	0.084858497	0.12744317
2013	0.173441661	0.119157143	0.246554973	0.165223019	0.143078937	0.185202964	0.118165615	0.110375278	0.081662946	0.127454403
2014	0.170661485	0.118095133	0.240316033	0.169974391	0.144605738	0.183349478	0.120007868	0.107278794	0.07923864	0.123674558
2015	0.170135879	0.118109873	0.241086395	0.172139624	0.141753653	0.178468656	0.119511209	0.108150404	0.080146155	0.120272959
2016	0.168530447	0.119059463	0.2399177	0.175395675	0.145093007	0.168424556	0.117005654	0.104013653	0.078224212	0.120751089
2017	0.16535332	0.118321127	0.235874523	0.174880987	0.139340599	0.165550132	0.116710465	0.103386968	0.074937732	0.118652979
2018	0.161019264	0.115171143	0.230426422	0.172360334	0.137915872	0.163993672	0.115708184	0.100987593	0.073061362	0.115455004
2019	0.156685209	0.11202116	0.22497832	0.169839681	0.136491145	0.162437212	0.114705903	0.098588218	0.071184991	0.112257028
2020	0.152351154	0.108871177	0.219530219	0.167319029	0.135066418	0.160880752	0.113703622	0.096188843	0.069308621	0.109059053
2021	0.147949725	0.106035754	0.213645081	0.16456457	0.132244539	0.158024676	0.112217719	0.093753707	0.067676659	0.105827421
2022	0.143548295	0.103200331	0.207759944	0.161810111	0.12942266	0.155168601	0.110731817	0.091318571	0.066044698	0.102595789
2023	0.139146866	0.100364908	0.201874806	0.159055652	0.12660078	0.152312525	0.109245914	0.088883435	0.064412736	0.099364156
2024	0.134745436	0.097529486	0.195989669	0.156301193	0.123778901	0.149456449	0.107760012	0.086448299	0.062780774	0.096132524
2025	0.130344007	0.094694063	0.190104532	0.153546734	0.120957022	0.146600374	0.106274109	0.084013163	0.061148812	0.092900892
2026	0.125834931	0.09103005	0.183261065	0.149046405	0.117394102	0.142789324	0.103887276	0.081261637	0.059515882	0.089906137
2027	0.121325856	0.087366037	0.176417599	0.144546077	0.113831181	0.138978273	0.101500443	0.078510111	0.057882951	0.086911382
2028	0.11681678	0.083702024	0.169574133	0.140045749	0.110268261	0.135167223	0.09911361	0.075758584	0.056250021	0.083916627
2029	0.112307704	0.080038011	0.162730667	0.13554542	0.10670534	0.131356173	0.096726778	0.073007058	0.054617091	0.080921871
2030	0.107798629	0.076373998	0.155887201	0.131045092	0.10314242	0.127545123	0.094339945	0.070255532	0.05298416	0.077927116
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Note: boe = barrel of oil-equivalent. Global transport sector energy intensity is measured as transport final energy consumption per unit of gross global product. National transport sector energy intensity is measured in the same way, but per unit of gross domestic product.



An integrated, coherent and co‑ordinated set of policies is required to put the transport sector on the SDS pathway. Measures at various levels of jurisdiction – within multi-country regional blocs, at national and subnational levels, and within cities – must spur progress in:

  • Managing travel demand to reduce the frequency of trips, distances travelled, and dependence on cars, and to shift travel to the most efficient modes (i.e. the ‘avoid/shift’ approach).
  • Improving the energy efficiency (i.e. fuel economy) of vehicles.
  • Increasing the availability and use of sustainable, low-carbon fuels.

In addition to CO2 emissions, the SDS targets air quality improvements. Adopting cleaner fuels and enacting tighter emissions control standards for vehicles would improve outdoor air quality in the developed and developing world alike.

Regulations

Many regulatory measures – including vehicle efficiency standards, zero-emission vehicle mandates and low-carbon fuel standards – can encourage adoption of more sustainable transport technologies.

For example, fuel economy standards have already proven their efficacy in reducing specific (per-kilometre) emissions of cars and trucks. For vehicle efficiency standards to remain effective, however, it will be critical that they evolve to:

  • Reflect real-world operations. As the Dieselgate scandal so vividly demonstrated, it is possible for car manufacturers to comply with tests even as vehicles emit pollutants with serious health impacts. The same goes for CO2 emissions, but regulatory procedures can be improved, for instance through adoption of the WLTP, a testing system that incorporates real driving emissions, and in the case of local air pollutants, through efforts like the Real Urban Emissions (TRUE) initiative, which monitors in-use emissions.
  • Broaden the regulatory scope beyond direct tailpipe emissions. Regulations should also cover the upstream emissions and sustainability impacts of fuel production and distribution. A 'well-to-wheels' approach should be adopted as new technologies such as electric and hydrogen vehicles, and alternative fuels such as biofuels, gain market shares. Policies should eventually extend beyond operations to vehicle production and disposal. While there are many practical challenges to this 'life-cycle' vehicle regulation approach (including overlap with policies covering other sectors), it is necessary to begin by gathering and analysing data to monitor the life-cycle impacts of current regulatory frameworks.
  • Align standards with climate pledges. The disparity between policy coverage and stringency and the actions needed to meet emissions reduction goals is a major obstacle in curbing transport emissions growth. To be realistic and actionable, Nationally Determined Contributions must be founded on credible projections of transport activity and include policies to promote sustainable transport.
  • Guard against regulatory loopholes and expand to encompass new technologies and business models. For example, one regulatory loophole could be closed by including trailer efficiency mandates in heavy-duty-vehicle efficiency standards, or even mandating vehicle efficiency standards for 2-wheelers (only China has such standards). Examples of regulating new business models include new ways to promote Mobility-as-a-Service, and fleet regulations for taxis and ride-sourcing platforms.

Fiscal policies

Fiscal policies can spur progress in both reducing emissions and raising air quality. Taxes that reflect the societal and environmental damage costs incurred by burning fuel influence passenger and freight mobility choices. People may reduce discretionary car trips or car-pool, purchase more efficient vehicles and drive more efficiently, choose alternative transport modes or not take trips at all. Reducing or phasing out subsidies (implicit or explicit) on transport fuels also impels these shifts.

Taxing at the point of vehicle purchase and/or circulation can also affect transport decisions. Differentiated taxation schemes, also known as 'feebates', can incentivise vehicle makers to provide more efficient technologies and consumers to purchase cleaner, more fuel-efficient cars. Ideally, taxation schemes should directly target performance outcomes, including CO2 or local pollutant emissions reductions.

With rising efficiency and more electric vehicles in circulation, eventually fuel taxes will not provide enough revenue for road infrastructure maintenance. Although electric vehicles do not emit local air pollutants, their societal impacts include congestion and road wear. A well-timed phase-in of road pricing to supplement fuel taxation will be needed to manage the transition to cleaner and more sustainable road transport.

Transport technologies


The number of electric light-duty vehicles on the road has exceeded 5 million. Along with rising market uptake of electric cars, lower cost and better battery performance are making electrification of trucks and buses attractive for certain operations, especially in cities.

Meanwhile, China leads the world in urban train and high-speed rail expansion, with a significant amount of track laid rapidly in the past decade to supply electric, low-carbon passenger services for decades to come.

Reducing transport CO2 and pollutant emissions will require sustained policy efforts to enhance efficiency and electrification. Priorities also include anticipating and managing demand by steering new mobility developments in cities and long-term technology and policy visions for the hard-to-abate aviation, shipping and road freight subsectors.


Electric vehicles

2018 was another record-breaking year for global electric car sales (1.98 million), raising total global stock to 5.12 million. Sales increased 68% in 2018, more than twice the average year-on-year sales growth required to meet the SDS level by 2030. China was the world's largest market (just over 1 million electric cars sold in 2018), followed by Europe (385 000) and the United States (361 000); the three regions made up over 90% of all sales in 2018. Norway continues to have the highest market share for sales (46% in 2018), followed by Iceland (17%) and Sweden (8%). Progress in decarbonising the power sector will accelerate the CO2 emission reduction benefits of electric vehicles.

Electric car share in the SDS

The electric car market share is expanding rapidly as key drivers put the trajectory in line with the SDS.

	Share of passenger car stock
2000	0
2001	0
2002	0
2003	0
2004	0
2005	0.000312393
2006	0.000357342
2007	0.00041828
2008	0.000782979
2009	0.001111362
2010	0.002172285
2011	0.00893007
2012	0.025173286
2013	0.051529595
2014	0.091481708
2015	0.155234406
2016	0.238038691
2017	0.361196688
2018	0.576509842
2019	0.66116855
2020	0.830485966
2021	1.294675806
2022	1.908054393
2023	2.624664025
2024	3.566199106
2025	4.675387955
2026	5.964636984
2027	7.488052885
2028	9.30648217
2029	11.50626504
2030	14.4659369
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Rail

Rail is one of the most energy-efficient transport modes, accounting for 8% of global motorised passenger movements and 7% of freight but only 2% of transport energy use. Urban and high-speed rail infrastructures have scaled up rapidly over the past decade, laying the foundation for convenient, low-emissions transport within and between cities. China is leading the way with unprecedented expansion in high-speed rail: passenger activity grew nearly 20% in 2018, more than twice as fast as domestic aviation. Further rail investments in India and South East Asia in particular can help get the transport sector on track with the SDS by displacing more intensive modes such as cars, trucks and airplanes and reducing net energy use and emissions.

Energy intensity of passenger transport modes

Energy intensity of passenger transport modes

	Average	Blank	Variability at country level
Rail	0.17	0.06	0.72
Two/three-wheelers	0.45	0.35	0.42
Buses and minibuses	0.66	0.43	0.67
Cars	1.78	0.83	2.06
Aviation	1.80	1.04	2.02
Large cars	2.68	1.02	2.63
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Fuel economy of cars & vans

Average fuel consumption of light-duty vehicles (LDVs) improved by only 0.7% in 2017 slowing from the 2005-16 rate of 1.8% per year. To get on track with the SDS, which is aligned with the Global Fuel Economy Initiative (GFEI) 2030 targets, an annual improvement of 3.7% is needed. It is vital that standards become significantly more stringent and that vehicles comply with them in real-world driving conditions. Hopeful signs include ambitious but achievable CO2 standards passed in the EU and a proposal for stricter standards in China. Rapid adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) will also help achieve efficiency goals.

Average new global LDV fuel economy

Average global LDV fuel economy improvement slowed down in recent years and is not on track towards the GFEI/SDS target.

	Average fuel economy	GFEI target
2005	8.845	
2006	8.686745112	
2007	8.528490224	
2008	8.370235336	
2009	8.19227533	
2010	8.014315324	
2011	7.969488899	
2012	7.77457492	
2013	7.737858261	
2014	7.523986804	
2015	7.427810748	
2016	7.271505074	
2017	7.222183368	
2030		4.40
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Trucks & buses (heavy-duty vehicles)

Emissions from trucks and buses have risen at a rate of 2.2% annually since 2000. While policy coverage for heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs) still lags behind that of light-duty vehicles (LDVs), policy momentum has been growing. With new policies adopted in India in 2018, and in the EU expected in July 2019, more than half of HDVs sold worldwide will be covered by fuel economy and CO2 emissions standards. To achieve the SDS, more countries must adopt standards, and existing ones must become more comprehensive and stringent. In urban settings, rapid electrification (especially of buses, but increasingly of light commercial and medium-duty trucks) will help.

Emissions from heavy-duty vehicles

Truck emissions have grown rapidly over the past two decades. In the SDS, emissions level off and begin to decline in the coming decade.

	Heavy trucks	Medium trucks	Buses
2000	709.3404682	511.9067106	305.4584823
2001	714.3052191	519.104955	313.1179427
2002	727.0678942	531.7316978	322.4067584
2003	750.7131036	529.7645385	315.7219793
2004	802.5184497	553.0985143	323.3189183
2005	830.7504658	563.4205272	323.9018154
2006	865.8129108	573.7798537	328.8889256
2007	910.1361343	599.9836357	344.5386399
2008	926.6452348	608.7094024	358.4694829
2009	908.5940674	599.9437111	355.5380191
2010	960.8904611	620.9878642	363.4598631
2011	1005.819309	639.9144733	371.7273321
2012	1032.526247	660.9615317	377.3591065
2013	1074.678273	672.7432696	385.5743841
2014	1095.124689	675.3428636	385.3860584
2015	1119.505185	668.440698	399.9553202
2016	1117.667634	671.7461181	402.1455493
2017	1159.571176	661.4142783	389.8928801
2018	1184.159266	671.9407169	392.3708136
2019	1206.305051	680.5330524	395.8530426
2020	1223.728768	680.834995	396.7111882
2021	1240.917835	684.9053159	397.5514648
2022	1256.324687	688.1111414	398.3561856
2023	1266.774938	688.5761555	398.6475799
2024	1273.575658	686.5269476	401.2151076
2025	1275.399884	682.0670949	403.2934947
2026	1275.790354	677.1688523	403.4463852
2027	1269.256499	670.4208594	398.805641
2028	1260.997037	661.286552	399.2599108
2029	1252.998114	651.3520299	397.3511747
2030	1236.997452	638.5671192	394.233504
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Transport biofuels

Transport biofuel production expanded 7% year-on-year in 2018, and 3% annual production growth is expected over the next five years. This falls short of the sustained 10% output growth per year needed until 2030 to align with the SDS. Stronger policy support and innovation to reduce costs are required to scale up both advanced biofuel consumption and the adoption of biofuels in aviation and marine transport, as envisaged in the SDS. As only sustainable biofuels have a place in the SDS, more widespread sustainability governance must complement higher biofuel output.

Global biofuel production 2010-24 vs. SDS biofuel consumption in 2025 and 2030

Global biofuel production 2010-24 vs. SDS biofuel consumption in 2025 and 2030

	Historical	Forecast	Sustainable Development Scenario
2010	59.33	0	0
2011	62.09	0	0
2012	63.98	0	0
2013	70.75	0	0
2014	75.65	0	0
2015	75.21	0	0
2016	79.35	0	0
2017	82.56	0	0
2018	88.01	0	0
2019	0	91.17	0
2020	0	96.55	0
2021	0	98.96	0
2022	0	101.16	0
2023	0	103.58	0
2024	0	106.08	0
2025	0	0	198.4
2030	0	0	252
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Aviation

CO2 emissions from aviation continue to rise, and accounted for around 2.5% of global energy-related CO2 emissions in 2018. While energy efficiency in aviation improved by 3.2% per year between 2000 and 2014, it slowed to less than 1% per year between 2014 and 2016. In the SDS, aviation energy efficiency needs to improve by more than 3% per year to 2040. With global aviation activity continuing to grow rapidly (+140% since 2000), further international policy measures, such as more stringent carbon pricing and efficiency standards, could help put aviation on the SDS pathway.

Energy intensity of international aviation

Energy efficiency of both total and international aviation has risen rose substantially since 2000, but slower improvement in recent years shows signs of deviation from international policy targets and the SDS trajectory.

	Energy intensity	ICAO goal (2% annual improvement)	SDS
2000	18.2		
2001	18.6		
2002	19.3		
2003	19.2		
2004	18.2		
2005	18.2		
2006	17.5		
2007	16.9		
2008	15.5		
2009	15.4		
2010	14.3		
2011	14.1		
2012	13.7		
2013	13.5		
2014	13.1		
2015	13.1		
2016	12.9	12.9	12.9
2017		12.7	12.8
2018		12.4	12.4
2019		12.2	12.1
2020		11.9	11.7
2021		11.7	11.5
2022		11.5	11.1
2023		11.2	10.7
2024		11.0	10.4
2025		10.8	10.0
2026		10.6	9.7
2027		10.4	9.4
2028		10.2	9.1
2029		10.0	8.8
2030		9.8	8.5
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Notes: ICAO = International Civil Aviation Organization. RTK = revenue tonne kilometre1. Source: IEA analysis based on ICAO (2010c; 2018) and IEA (2018).

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International shipping

In April 2018, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) agreed to reduce GHG emissions by at least 50% by 2050 compared with a 2008 baseline, with carbon intensity reduction targets for 2030 and 2050. This historical milestone will need to be quickly followed by dedicated polices and other measures. Because of the large price gap between conventional and clean energy technologies, ambitious and timely measures enabling strong efficiency improvements and rapid fuel switching to low-carbon fuels are vital.

CO2 emissions from international shipping

The IMO’s emissions reduction target for 2050 will require ambitious, actionable policies.

	CO2 emissions	IMO Target
2000	498	
2001	474	
2002	492	
2003	502	
2004	551	
2005	572	
2006	609	
2007	645	
2008	647	
2009	616	
2010	663	
2011	663	
2012	617	
2013	614	
2014	636	
2015	663	
2016	681	
2017	694	
2018	693	
2030	655	
2040	520	
2050		324
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Acknowledgements


Many thanks to Josh Miller of the ICCT for reviewing and providing critical and creative feedback to earlier drafts of this page.