Zero-emission cars need to overtake market by 2035 to curb climate change

Zero-emission vehicles need to take over the car market by around 2035 for the world to meet the Paris climate agreement’s lower warning limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius, according to new analysis by the Climate Action Tracker.

The 1.5 degree Celsius aspirational target agreed upon at the UN climate conference in Paris means significant changes for the passenger transport sector.

The latest analysis from the Climate Action Tracker (CAT) shows that if governments were to double fuel economy standards in new passenger cars by 2030 and achieve a 50 per cent uptake in electric vehicles by 2050, then it could be possible to reach the 2 degrees Celsius warming pathway.

But as CAT writes in a statement, a 1.5 degree Celsius pathways requires more action.

“Emissions standards only get the transport fleet to a certain point – it is clear that in order to get to the Paris Agreement’s lower temperature goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius, the world needs to make a paradigm shift to zero emissions vehicles,” said Markus Hagemann of NewClimate Institute, which together with Climate Analytics, Ecofys and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research produce scientific analysis for CAT.

But the switchover to electric vehicles must be accompanied by a decarbonisation of the power sector to ensure that these vehicles are truly emissions free.

“For electric vehicles this would mean that they also need to be powered by renewable electricity,” said Yvonne Deng of Ecofys.

To avoid exceeding a 1.5 degree Celsius warming trajectory, zero global aggregate emissions would need to be reached by around the middle of the century. This would mean that the last fossil gasoline or diesel-powered passenger vehicle would have to be sold around 2035.

“Even a date of 2035 or so for the last new fossil-fuel powered passenger car could be late: the earlier we decarbonise the transport system, the less we will need to rely on negative emissions that largely require technologies still awaiting large-scale deployment,” said Michiel Schaeffer of Climate Analytics.


Image credit: Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., flickr/Creative Commons

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