SA transport sector’s shift to zero emissions requires move to rail, ban on new ICE vehicle sales by 2035

5th May 2023

By: Irma Venter

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor


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For South Africa to cut greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the transport sector to zero, 15% to 20% of road traffic must move to rail.

This shift is also key in addressing road congestion, and improving the efficiency of the overall transport system.

However, it will require, as a prerequisite, a fundamental change in the country’s rail system to improve safety, reliability and efficiency.

A move to net zero will also require about 750 000 electric vehicles (EVs) on South Africa’s roads by 2030, with a complete ban on the sale of new internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles by 2035.

These are some of the highlights of the latest report to be released as part of a series of publications from the Climate Pathways and Just Transition Project run by the National Business Initiative (NBI) in partnership with Business Unity South Africa and Boston Consulting Group.

The report is called ‘Decarbonising South Africa’s Transport Sector’.

Globally, the transport sector is one of the most significant contributors to GHG emissions, with most transport utilising ICEs, powered by fossil fuels.

Transport is the third-largest emitting sector in South Africa, accounting for almost 55- million tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year, which is equivalent to more than 10% of the country’s national gross emissions.

The NBI report details how the decarbonisation of South Africa’s transport sector can unfold, and covers a suite of levers that must be deployed and the trade-offs that must be made in charting a course to net zero by 2050.

According to the report, fully decarbonising South Africa’s transport sector will require four core levers, namely reducing demand through improved spatial planning (reducing travel times and travel distances); shifting to more efficient transport modes (moving from road to rail, increasing the use of public transport); accelerating the adoption of green technology in road transport (using EVs, coupled with the decarbonisation of the national grid); and greening the remaining fossil fuels left in the car parc and aviation and shipping industries through low-carbon fuels.

Achieving these objectives will not be easy, and “will require integrated policy support, coordinated infrastructure investments and collaboration among all key stakeholders”, notes the report.

“Without a deliberate and coordinated local effort, South Africa’s transport sector will be on a trajectory that is inconsistent with South Africa’s climate commitments or Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement by 2030, and inconsistent with net zero by 2050.”

The report notes that “immediate next steps and no-regret actions” in South Africa’s decarbonising journey include reducing the import tariffs on EVs, and, therefore, growing the adoption rate among consumers; investing in revitalising rail infrastructure; and improving governance within rail and port management.

The report adds that South Africa’s transport sector not only faces the challenge of decarbonising, but also one of improving the quality and effectiveness of its operations.

Edited by Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor




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