Feature Report: All About Mobility
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3 items of content in this feature report



The Global Transportation Sector: CO2 Emissions on the Rise

Economic globalization, higher living standards and the boom in tourism have spurred an increase in passenger and freight volumes since the end of the 20th century, a trend that is expected to continue through to 2050. The transportation sector is currently responsible for the fastest growth in CO2 emissions.

Sustainable Mobility
Container ships are one illustration of the expansion of intercontinental trade. ©SHUTTERSTOCK

Volumes to Triple by 2050

Transportation across the world can be broken down into different modes (road, railway, aviation and shipping) and two main segments:

  • Commercial freight: This segment is expanding rapidly as a result of the rise in trade and the diversification of product value chains. Products are no longer manufactured at a single location but are usually made from components produced at different factories around the world. Around 70% of freight is transported by sea, 18% by road, 9% by rail, 2% by canals and under 0.25% by air.
  • Passengers: With the development of urban hubs, short trips within cities are becoming the most common form of transportation for individuals. Other travel includes longer overland journeys by road or rail, and flights, which have been rising steadily in number for several years now.

60%: The increase in CO2 emissions from the transportation sector expected by 2050 in the absence of mitigation measures. 

According to the International Transport Forum (ITF)1, both freight and passenger transportation volumes will triple between 2015 and 2050 if current trends in demand continue.

CO2 Emissions

Nearly all forms of transportation, excluding trains, rely on petroleum products. Passenger travel is responsible for 60% of CO2See Carbon Dioxid emissions from transportation, with freight accounting for the other 40%.

In 2018, a total of 24% of global CO2 emissions from fuelFuel is any solid, liquid or gaseous substance or material that can be combined with an oxidant... combustion came from transportation2. Road transportation of passengers and goods (by car, truck, bus or two-wheeler) was by far the main culprit, accounting for nearly three-quarters of emissions. Aviation and shipping were more or less tied, at just over 11% each. Trains emit very little CO2, representing 1.2%.

Based on current policies, it is estimated that global emissions from transportation will rise by 60% between 2015 and 2050. However, emissions from freight would need to decrease by 45% and emissions from passenger travel by 70% if the Paris AgreementOil contract under which the oil that is produced is shared between the state and the oil company... objectives are to be met.


Air travel accounts for 11% of total CO2 emissions from transportation, and 2.5% of all emissions worldwide.

Disruptions on the Horizon

It is difficult to make accurate forecasts since disruptions in the industry may emerge.



References :
Specialized body within the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECDFounded in 1960, the OECD promotes policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world... ) bringing together developed countries. Read the 2019 study
Excluding emissions from agriculture and land use.


Sources :
(1) ITF's annual report
(2) Transportation statistics in France (in French only
(3) Les Echos (in French only)