Reducing Carbon emissions from road transport
● Congested streets and polluted air are common experiences in India’s metropolises. Delhi tops the
charts and emissions are more than twice as high as other Indian megacities, such as Mumbai,
Bengaluru or Ahmedabad.
● India’s road transport emissions are small in global comparison but is increasing exponentially. The
Global Carbon Project reports that India’s carbon emissions are rising more than two times as fast
as the global rise in 2018.
● Reducing CO2 emissions of road transport leverages multiple co-benefits, for example, improving
air quality and increasing physical activity, which are critical for well-being, particularly in urban
● Climate action requires an understanding of how emissions vary with spatial context. Income and
urbanisation are the key determinants of travel distance and travel mode choice and, therefore,
● The way cities are built and the design of public transit are critical for low-carbon mobility systems.
● Average per capita commuting emissions are highest for the most affluent districts, which are
predominantly urban, and that heavily use four-wheelers for commuting. In contrast, average per
capita commuting emissions are lowest for Indian districts that are poor, and commuting distances
are short and rarely use three-wheelers.
Focusing on well-being:
● Mayors and town planners should organise cities around public transport and cycling, thereby
improving mobility for many, while limiting car use. Uptake of non-motorised transport emerges as a
sweet spot of sustainable development, resulting in both lower emissions and better public health in
● According to the recent National Family Health Survey (2015-16), nearly 30% of all men are
overweight or obese in southwest Delhi, but only 25% in Thiruvananthapuram and 13% in
Allahabad. These data correlate with high reliance of car use in Delhi and low demand for walking.
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● Increase in cycling will lower chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, while
also abating emissions. Car use, in contrast, correlates with higher rates of diabetes.
● Fuel price increases, congestion charges or parking management could be a strategy that improves
the well-being of individuals living in urban areas.
● India should double down in its strategy to transition to electric two and three-wheelers.
● India is the third-largest market for automobiles and is one of the world’s largest producers and
consumers in two- and three- wheelers and Indian companies can take a leading role in switching to
electric vehicles. This will also help in transforming India’s vision of ‘Make in India’.
● Compact cities improve accessibility and reduce emissions from transport and even the building
sector. Most Indian cities are already very dense, with few benefits expected by further high-rise.
● City managers should ensure that existing urban areas provide short routes and fast access to
schools, hospitals and jobs, otherwise, residents would be required to travel long distances.
Providing access to public service, choosing rapid transit over car driving in cities and supporting
the rise of electric two and three-wheelers will help drive India to a modern and low-carbon transport
system fit for the 21st century.
1 October 2019