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New modelling: Australia's credible transport transition beyond electric vehicles 3 mins read

New scenario modelling by Monash University’s Climateworks Centre demonstrates that Australia can bolster transport decarbonisation by expanding its approach to include a suite of solutions, calling for a shift in the way governments plan and fund transport in the face of modest electric vehicle (EV) uptake.  


Climateworks Transport Program Lead, Helen Rowe said: ‘Developing a credible plan to reduce transport emissions requires a shift in the way governments at all levels plan and fund transport – putting emissions reductions at the heart.’


The Climateworks modelling, presented in its latest report ‘Decarbonising Australia's transport sector: Diverse solutions for a credible emissions reduction plan’, examines what a credible plan to decarbonise Australia’s transport sector could look like, going beyond electric vehicles and giving the country more options to successfully turn the wheel on its third-largest and fastest-growing source of emissions.


‘The goal is to reduce transport emissions, move people and goods efficiently and create a sector that is resilient to the challenges ahead – this requires Australia to expand its focus beyond EVs,’ she said. 


‘As transport emissions continue to ramp-up, now is the time to be diversifying solutions, rather than placing our eggs in the one basket. This includes incorporating ‘mode shift’ – shifting the way we move people and goods to more sustainable modes – and reducing some unnecessary trips, for example through making freight deliveries more efficient.’ 


‘Just like in the energy sector, where the nation is backing a whole suite of clean energy solutions, Australia can do the same with transport, by ramping up EV uptake while also supporting things like public and active transport, zero-emissions trucks and shifting more freight by rail.’


‘Investing in and implementing a diverse range of solutions can also increase transport choice, reduce congestion, and make travel more efficient and convenient. If the nation purely focuses on replacing every car and truck on the road with a zero-emissions option, it is going to get stuck with the same congestion issues.’ 


‘Traffic is still traffic, no matter the vehicle you are in,’ added Ms Rowe. 


Report lead author, Lily Rau said: ‘Taking a technology-only approach, focused primarily on EVs, carries risk as it is susceptible to real-world challenges, including barriers to supply and technology development. Without a more diversified approach, Australia's transport sector could miss the window of opportunity to stay aligned with the 1.5 degree Celsius goal of the Paris Agreement.’ 


‘Taking a diverse solutions approach is a win-win. It can pick up the emissions reductions slack if Australia’s zero-emissions vehicle uptake is not rapid enough. If uptake accelerates, having a range of transport solutions will help deepen emissions reductions further for the entire sector and Australia more broadly,’ she said. 


‘The good news is that decarbonising transport and improving the transport system overall can go hand in hand. Solutions that move people and goods more efficiently also cut emissions.’ 


‘This modelling was designed with impact in mind – to create the evidence that shows how and why the Australian government should go beyond EVs as they design the transport sector’s national decarbonisation plan,’ said Ms Rau, Climateworks Senior Transport Project Manager.


The government is developing six national sector plans: Transport and infrastructure, Electricity and energy, Industry, Resources, Built environment and Agriculture and land. Government is currently seeking submissions to inform the Transport and infrastructure sector plan. 

Based on the modelling, Climateworks recommends that the Australian government apply the following in developing a credible transport sector decarbonisation plan: 

  1. Implement a portfolio of solutions, beyond EVs, so there is no single point of failure.
  2. Take every opportunity to increase zero-emissions vehicle (EVs and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles) uptake from current levels.
  3. Consider additional benefits beyond just emissions reduction when assessing different approaches to decarbonise transport.

Climateworks defines a ‘credible’ plan as one that: supports the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C; achieves better outcomes for the transport system as a whole; and uses all available transport decarbonisation solutions, as per the globally recognised Avoid, Shift and Improve (ASI) framework:


  • ‘Avoid’: Avoiding the need for some travel and making car and truck trips shorter and more efficient. 
  • ‘Shift’: Shifting to lower-emissions modes of transport, also referred to as ‘mode shift’, such as travelling by train instead of plane, using more active and public transport, and moving more freight by rail. 
  • ‘Improve’: Improving vehicle and fuel efficiency, for example, getting more zero-emissions vehicles on the road and using lower carbon liquid fuels.

Climateworks has a decade-long history of using scenario modelling utilising AusTIMES – a tool developed over several years in partnership with CSIRO – to envisage how different levels of climate ambition might look for the Australian economy.

Media enquiries contact:

Bri Hudson | +61 492 265 437 | 

Climateworks Centre bridges the gap between research and climate action, operating as an independent not-for-profit within Monash University. Climateworks Centre develops specialist knowledge to accelerate emissions reduction, in line with the global 1.5°C temperature goal, across Australia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific. 

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