For the first time, the ITF Transport Outlook assembles scenarios for future transport demand and related CO2 emissions from all sectors and modes of transport. Starting from long-term projections produced by the OECD as well as non-OECD bodies, it analyses how socio-economic changes will affect the demand for transport under different policy scenarios. Several key trends emerge from these, such as the intensifying shift in transport activity towards developing economies, with Asian countries representing an ever increasing share of total transport demand for both freight and passengers.

The level of uncertainty in all areas of transport is also striking. Uncertainties related to the pace of economic and trade development, the price of oil, technology and innovations all render the future of the transport world difficult to fathom. The different outcomes of the scenarios should not be read as forecasts for the coming 35 years. Rather, they describe several possible futures. Whether future reality comes closer to one or the other will depend on the actions policy-makers take. At a time when the international commitments, such as the Paris agreement on climate change, need to be transformed into actions, the scenarios of the ITF Transport Outlook show that an efficient decarbonisation of the transport sector can only occur if a wide range of measures come into force for both freight and passengers. All policy levers, Avoid (unnecessary transport demand), Shift (to sustainable transport options) and Improve (efficiency), must be put into action.

Building the comprehensive scenarios in this Outlook is only the very first step of a larger enterprise undertaken by the International Transport Forum to understand how the transport sector can play its part in decarbonising the economy. ITF’s Decarbonising Transport project aims to build a catalogue of efficient mitigation measures and assess them under a coherent framework, in order to help countries transform their ambitions into actions, by building a commonly accepted framework for climate policy assessment, and by helping countries to develop sustainable transport solutions.

At the same time, the efforts towards greener transport need to be balanced with the role transport plays as an enabler of sustainable development. There is a growing recognition that better transport is not about increased mobility and tonne-kilometres but about providing equitable access to jobs, opportunities, social interactions and markets, contributing to healthy and fulfilled lives. Transport policies should focus on accessibility, not only time savings. This Outlook showcases how to analyse policies in terms of access in two areas, urban and international air travel.

Providing efficient, equitable access while respecting the pledge to decarbonise transport will prove challenging. Policy-makers need to act now to ensure a sustainable future for transport, but with a strategic long-term vision. They must avoid the trap of short-term energy savings which will prove inefficient in the long-term, especially those involving large investment, for instance in infrastructure.

Policy makers should also be ready to tap into the potential of innovative technologies in terms of access and green transport. The impact of digitalisation is already felt strongly across much of transport. The next transport revolution is underway, based on real-time data that make it easier and more efficient to match supply and demand. The coming decades will witness the arrival of more disruptive technologies, vehicle automation and on-demand transport first and foremost. Car-sharing has the potential to increase accessibility in a sustainable way. Such solutions need to be promoted and accompanied by sound policies. Without these, vehicle automation could lead to more cars onto the roads, with all the associated problems of air pollution, CO2 emissions, congestion, inequitable transport…

Sustainable transport enables sustainable development. It is fundamental for meeting the needs of people in their personal lives and economic activities while safeguarding the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Providing sustainable transport will be a challenge and will require sound governance from all stakeholders. In this respect, I hope that this Outlook can enhance the knowledge about the issues at stake and become the basis for enlightened discussions about solutions.


José Viegas


International Transport Forum