Comprehensive new framework could better inform carbon reduction policies

As countries around the world seek to reduce their carbon emissions, China, currently the largest emitter of carbon dioxide with 30% of total global carbon emissions in 2018, has declared its goal of being carbon neutral d ‘by 2060. To achieve this goal, China — and any other country with similar climate change mitigation goals — will need to implement the most effective combination of transport sector policies, which in turn requires accurate decarbonization models.

According to researchers at the University of Hiroshima, the frameworks most commonly used to model carbon emissions in the transport sector tend to focus on a set of factors such as behavior, land use or energy consumption, for example, to the detriment of other factors. Now, these researchers have developed an integrated framework to take into account the many variables relevant to accurate carbon emissions modeling, allowing policymakers to have a more complete picture to choose the best path forward. They applied this framework to model transportation energy emissions for the 31 regions of China.

The results were published in Nature Communication in June 2022.

Paper co-author Runsen Zhang, an assistant professor at Hiroshima University’s Graduate School of Advanced Science and Engineering at the time of the research, said current models of carbon emissions have limitations. , which he and his co-author, Tatsuya Hanaoka, a senior researcher at the National Institute for Environmental Studies in Japan, set out to solve.

“Methodologically, on the one hand, global scenario studies paint an overall picture of energy use that seems plausible to energy policy makers and climate change scientists, but land use planning, infrastructure and behavioral factors are barely modeled,” Zhang said. “On the other hand, transport models with sophisticated behavioral descriptions and high spatial resolution can provide a significantly more concrete answer to urban transport problems, but they often simplify representations of the energy system and lack an integrated evaluation to long-term cross-sectional effects sectoral effects.

In order to address these limitations, the researchers integrated a transport model and an energy system model and relied on the Avoid-Shift-Improve framework to develop a method for projecting future energy consumption and emissions in the transportation sector in China. Instead of taking an overall view of China, they looked at each of the 31 regions to capture regional characteristics of transportation energy consumption.

“The transport model passed the mode-specific service demand to the energy system model to estimate the future transition of the technology mix, energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions, while the technology mix and costs have been sent back to the transportation model to recalculate the generalized transportation cost with an updated technology mix,” Hanaoka said.

The researchers applied four instruments – technology, regulation, information and price – to each of the three categories of the Avoid-Shift-Improve approach for a total of 12 scenarios, which were also compared to a business as usual scenario. The results showed different advantages and disadvantages in each scenario as well as in each region.

According to Zhang, in addition to showing the importance of a region-specific set of policies, the results shed light on the synergistic coupling and trade-offs between different variables to develop a policy mix that will best achieve the goal. of China’s carbon neutrality.

“To meet the long-term emission reduction needs of China’s transport sector, concrete policy recommendations must be presented to maximize synergies and minimize trade-offs between strategies and instruments,” Zhang said. “It is important to emphasize that to bridge the gap between transport and climate change studies, transport planners, energy policy makers and climate experts must come together to develop innovative solutions towards climate neutrality. carbon.”

According to the researchers, scientists will then need to look at air and maritime transport, instead of focusing mainly on land transport, as was the case here due to data availability, and involve other regions of the world. world.

“Future studies will be directed towards developing a global energy model of transportation, including road, rail, water and air transportation,” Hanaoka said.

Zhang is currently affiliated with the Sustainable Society Design Center at the Graduate School of Frontier Sciences, University of Tokyo.

The Japan Society for the Promotion of Science and the Environmental Research and Technology Development Fund of the Japan Environmental Restoration and Conservation Agency supported this work.

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