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Parameters Set to Achieve the Emission Targets Set for the Year 2050

by Suleman

Executive Summary

Industries and the transport sector consume the largest portion of energy generated across the world. The specific reports available to expose the regional variation clearly emphasize this aspect. The problem faced from huge energy dependance on the fossil fuels is the impacts generated by the climate change which is often attributed to the rise in the green house gases in the atmosphere released mostly by both the transport and industry sector. Various measures and means proposed for its reduction across the global scale was not very successful primarily due to the lethargy in the effective implementation of green house mitigating steps and the attitude of the society at large. The research activities have already been initiated to address various aspects that would help to mitigate the carbon-di-oxide emissions. Availability of emission inventory prepared across different sectors for various types of energy option is one such initiative. In addition, the implementation of suitable policy instruments and mechanisms, the development of new technology with improved pollution characteristics and the quest for alternative fuel solutions have all gained the attention required to tackle climate change.

A huge inventory of emission characteristics have been released by United Kingdom considering the annual average of emission rate from different fuel modes like petrol, diesel, coal, L.P.G, aviation spirit, naphtha and other minor products. This shows the effect of various interventions and also the gaps available in the system that could be intervened to attain better results. Exploring the potential of Biofuels was an interesting attempt that couldn’t achieve the expected results. The ethanol production from corn was found to be unsustainable considering the life cycle analysis form the corn cultivation to conversion to ethanol. The second-generation biofuel interventions expect to introduce advanced technological inputs and anticipates the cellulosic technology to deliver the required breakthrough. In addition, the change to be brought about in the light duty segment is another aspect that is considered to address the emission levels envisaged in 2050. The change in mobility levels and the corresponding influence of the fuel consumption rates besides the changes in emission level is also discussed here. The report discusses various parameters that are considered to be very important to achieve the emission targets set for the year 2050


Industries and Transport tops the chart of the main energy users and the domestic market is anticipated to quickly capture the list. Consequently, the transport industry is the main user of petroleum goods. Improving the environmental efficiency of the transport industry, with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas pollution, calls for a radical change from today’s practises. It is estimated that prevailing lethargy in the reduction of green house emissions in the transport sector in comparison with the prevailing trends in the society is the prime reason for 50 percent reduction in projected targets during the first half of the last decade (EPA, 2009). Several instruments and interventions have been proposed by various countries and organizations towards achieving a positive shift in carbon-di-oxide emissions. The past and the present EU policies have emphasized on the improvements in the vehicle technology and also the quality of the fuel in their effort to lessen the pressure on the environment.

The growth in the mobility is directly linked to the economic growth observed across different regions. The Figure 1 shows the projected income anticipated across different time periods at different regions of the world (WBCSD, 2004). This growth is certainly translated into the economic progress that would reflect in the increased mobility need. The projections reflect the huge difference across the different regions primarily developed and developing regions. The other regions consisting of OECD Pacific, North America and Europe shows a higher rate of income and their future projections too show highly skewed pattern on growth compared to the developing regions of Asia and Africa

Parameters Set to Achieve the Emission Targets Set for the Year 2050Figure 1: Projected real income 2000 to 2050

In order to counter the adverse effects of increase in the volume of traffic anticipated, appropriate interventions in the form of better fuels, advanced transportation systems etc are required. The Figure 2 gives a projected growth in traffic volume across different regions till the year 2050 (WBCSD, 2004). It is also observed that these measures are inadequate to bring about a vital change and all the efforts undertaken is offset by the increased transport volume. It is also estimated that the change in the various aspects of economy across different time periods would have positive influence on the mobility component also. This should give the right motivation for developing appropriate systems that would help to achieve the benefits of reduced noise levels, lower concentrations of air pollutants and less damage to biodiversity besides the core objective of fuel efficiency and emission reduction. This would call for addressing the issues that are much beyond the transport demand. The instruments for policy change shall also influence the other sectors of households, industry and commercial activities from which transport originates also need to be included. Thus the ultimate objective would be to evolve realistic targets that prompt the policy makers and stake holders to work towards the creation of appropriate mechanisms that could be efficiently monitored for the environmental performance of the sector. 

Figure 2: Projected growth in personal motorized vehicle ownership

The Emission Conversion Factors 

The carbon-di-oxide emission into the atmosphere takes place at different locations. The electricity generation stations, industrial operations, transport vehicles and domestic users are the major points where conversion factors would be very helpful for us to assess the net carbon-di-oxide emissions into the atmosphere. The major sources of energy in for different uses could be classified as are natural gas, gas oil, petrol, diesel, coal, LPG, aviation spirit, aviation turbine oil, naphtha, lubricants and other minor products from the refinery. Each of them have different conversion factor for the estimation of carbon – di-oxide output computation. The available reports show that the coal and its derivatives have the highest value for the carbon loading. The petroleum products like diesel, petrol, oil, aviation oils , LPG and naphtha follow the list. The emission factors are computed based on the net calorific values as all the conversion factors in future would be soon required be required in the net calorific value basis. Even the sector wide emission factors computed across United Kingdom have given interesting results. The electricity conversion factors based on the average carbon emissions across the total nation grid expressed as per KWh of electricity at the user point has been computed across different years. It is observed that the emission factors shows a considerable reduction in the carbon-di-oxide emission. Nearly one-third reduction in the carbon-di-oxide emission has been achieved across fifteen-year period from 1990 to 2005.

Projected Impacts Due to Increased Mobility

The primary effect of increased volume of traffic is the rise in the fuel consumption. The pattern of fuel consumption is forecasted till the year 2050 is presented in the Figure 3 (WBCSD, 2004). The present day statistics reveals that the biggest sources of transportation green house gases are generated from the light duty vehicles mostly trucks and passenger car units accounting atleast 60 percent of the total transportation related green house gases. Figure 3: Projected  fuel use

The emission projections for the year 2050 are presented in the Figure 4 and. The emission levels are computed for different regions of the world across the time span extending from 2000 to 2050 (WBCSD, 2004). The trend observed from the graphs shows an increasing rate though the pattern of growth differs considerably across regions. It is clear from the graph that Europe OECD region have almost incorporated necessary steps that prevent a sudden rise in the GHG emissions. The extend of rise from the prevailing state is very minimal for this region. While on the other hand, North American region has the highest growth as the current levels of interventions are inadequate to limit the future accumulation of GHGs. Currently, the developing regions of Asia and Africa have very low levels of emissions compared to the other developed regions of the world. But these regions too would experience increasing emission levels that would put the emission graph soaring. The interventions needed in these countries would be very low and hence it would become very easy for the policy makers in these regions to establish a highly successful system there.

Parameters Set to Achieve the Emission Targets Set for the Year 2050

Figure 4: Green House Gas Emissions projections

The targets to achieve better fuel economy and environmental quality  criteria for the light duty vehicles like cars, trucks and medium duty passenger cars  are already in place. A collaborative work undertaken by The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic safety Administration (NHTSA) aims to achieve the above said goal that would help to prepare necessary policy intervention in a long term manner by forecasting the emissions till 2030 and beyond based on the model years ranging from 2012 to 2016. The estimates prepared for this initiative shows that the life time cost of the programme would be 60 dollars which could give an accumulated benefits of more than 250 US dollar (EPA, 2009).

Cost of Inaction

The stern report have clearly emphasized that the initiatives of corrective action towards reducing the most adverse impacts from the climate change would cost a maximum of 1 percent of GDP at the global level, though the share when estimated on the developed regions alone might show a slightly higher proportion. At the same time, the extend of loss arising from the inactive state against the impending danger is nearly 5 percent of total GDP of the world. The inventory of emissions available for the UK highlights the effect of the transport industry on the carbon-di-oxide emissions that make up 25percent of all the emissions reported. Due to this reason, Transport is expected to a play a very critical role in reducing the emissions and hence with this as the objective “Towards a sustainable transport system” framework was released for UK. One of the major initiatives of action were to consider various cost-effective ways of emission reduction pathways for different journey types and modes of transport. The European commission has proposed at least 16 percent reduction by 2020 of green house gas emissions from the non-traded sector in United Kingdom. Further, the reported forecasts on the emissions from the domestic transport sector is also said to be influenced by various uncertainties. The possible changes that could be expected in road, rail and also in the aviation transport with the influences from the economic conditions are used in the forecasting exercise. Among  the available reports it is clear that the road transport have the mammoth share of emissions, with the estimates saying as 92 percent.

Reducing the over-dependance on the fossil fuel is one of the biggest motivations for the exploring the possible avenues for biofuels. The early positive results obtained from the early experiments in the US have motivated for higher targets in the form of expansion and extension of renewable which calls for using 36 billion gallons of biofuels across the country by the year 2022. The efforts of promoting the biofuels as environment friendly substitute suffered a serious setback (USDA, 2009). The high growth rate achieved in the promotion of  bio diesel and  ethanol have resulted in the escalation of food grain prices especially of the feed grain and soyabean. It is also reported that the emphasis on biofuels have resulted in the emergence of new set of ecological problems besides filing to meet the needed green house gas emission reduction interventions. Also, it is said to have created a competition between the food and the fuel in addition to the rise of deforestation, which lead to carbon accumulation activities. Thus the search for fuel alternatives have placed the much needed focus on the development of sustainable fuel options that is capable of achieving higher fuel efficiency and lowering the demand (USDA, 2009). 

            The most common types of biofuels in United State are biodiesel and ethanol. And major volume of ethanol is being prepared from corn. Both , biodiesel and ethanol , are not used in isolation, they are used in combination with the other fuels. The ethanol is combined with the gasoline while the biodiesel is added with the petroleum diesel. In addition, another major advantage expected from using ethanol was the elimination of an additive to gasoline called MBTE, which is reported to cause heavy contamination of the groundwater (EPA, 2009). The studies have shown a wide disparity across the quantity of corn utilized and the net reduction in the gasonline consumed across United States. The projected estimates by USDA shows that nearly one-third of the total corn production by the year 2010 would be used for ethanol production while ethanol is expected to constitute only 8.5 percent of annual gasoline consumption in the year 2017 (USDA, 2009). On the other hand , the biodiesel initiatives, which have relied mostly on soy and waste cooking oil,  have not matched the development achieved by the ethanol in spite of the industrial growth witnessed during this period. The cost of both soyabean and the corn experienced a sudden rise in prices which have put large number of people involved in the agricultural activities like livestock and poultry. As these agro-produces are potential animal feed further rise would result in the lower productivity from these sectors thus questioning the overall sustainability of the system  (USDA, 2009).

From the initial attempts with the first generation biofuels it is now expected that the advanced biofuel systems would be more acceptable for the lowering of greenhouse gas emissions. Some of the concerns with the first generation biofuels are the increased emissions considering the entire growth phase of the biomass (EPA, 2009). The extend of mechanization, irrigation and fertilization needed for their growth would have certainly resulted in the large quantities of carbon emissions in various phases and thus offset the reduction that the biomass grown from these efforts could assure. Thus the scientists have shown that the corn based ethanol could result in 12 to 18 percent reduction in the emissions, it is under the pretext that the refineries are fueled using natural gas to function energy efficiently (Earley and McKeown, n.d.). On the other hand, if the fuel used in the refineries happened to be coal the emission would be much higher than those from the gasoline. Also, these programs are also expected to cause serious threat to various natural resource conservation programmes. The high monetary returns from the production of feedstock for these fuels is feared to cause significant threat to the US Conservation Reserve Programme. Also the damage the biofuel programmes would cause on the groundwater resource is also enormous. The pollution resulting form the high rate of application of the fertilizers, nitrates and phosphates are the issues raised in this situation. Even the audits done on the social benefits too didn’t explicitly shows the benefits obtained from the new initiatives in the biofuel sector. Neither the economic benefits to t he rural community nor the high job potential to local community are still left unattained by these new generation fuels. 

The above mentioned shortcomings from the first generation biofuels have resulted in the emergence of second generation biofuels which focuses mainly on non-food feed stocks (Earley and McKeown, n.d.). They promises better energy  and green house gas characteristics that makes it more appropriate to meet the global objectives of lower greenhouse gas emissions and environmental sustainability. Cellulosic technology which relies on having biofuels derived from the cellulose obtained from plants that are grown purely for the energy production rather than for the food production is the core aspect of the second generation biofuel technology. The expectation are big from these apporaches, with as many as  55 cellulosic refineries are either in planning, construction or in operation across united states. Even the initial trials in US have shown that nearly 1200 gallons of ethanol could be obtained from an acre using much lower energy requirement than corn (Earley and McKeown, n.d.)

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) involves a comprehensive evaluation of the fuel based on the lifecylce analysis estimated from direct pollution and related emissions from improvements in land usage. RFS helps to understand whether the fuels have the ability to meet a minimum level of greenhouse gas reduction potential to make it qualify as a potential fuel for promotion. In addition, the agencies like EPA have plans to continuously reevaluate on annual basis and adjust the value of emission required by certain proportions based on the impacts caused by biofuels either on the environment or on the economy. The efficacies of these methods are often seen with skepticism and the methodologies and computations being proposed towards this are feared to turn controversial. Various industrial groups and environmental societies and also the State of California has begun to establish certain biofuel sustainability standards categorized as second generation. These standards, which are targeted to be a Low carbon Fuel Standard is expected to incorporate only the parameters related to the environmental aspects and not the socially relevant ones. Under the prevailing circumstances the RFS is continuing its support for the promotion of corn-based ethanol. The policy framers are of the opinion that the instruments like “blender credits” would be of considerable support for the promotion of advanced biofuel technological options and also in phasing out corn-fuel based ethanol production. Another major intervention would be in the promotion of coal free refineries and halting any support mechanism for the coal fired refineries.


Efforts taken for the improving the energy and emission performance of both the transport and industry sector was enormous. The success achieved have been partial and still considerable works need to be undertaken. Most of the solutions though found acceptable in isolation have realized its incompatibility when placed along with the other components in the overall system. The solutions like biofuels though acceptable on the emissions level considering a particular fuel type alone was found unsustainable when entire life cycle emission evaluation is carried out. Even on the emission control, the advancement in the emission control technology and the gains offered from it is offset by the large number of new vehicles entering the roads. The other modes of transport too shows similar picture. Thus a sustainable solution to address the energy and emissions from transport and industry sector need more committed effort from the society at large than the specific solution interventions as attempted in the present ways.

  • USDA (2009), USDA Agricultural Projections to 2017 , p. 28.
  • USDA (2008), Economic Research Service (ERS), “Supply and Use: Corn,” Feed Grains Database, [Online] Available from <www.ers.usda.gov/Data/feedgrains> [Accessed on 10 March 2010]
  • Schill, S.R. (2007), Miscanthus versus Switchgrass, Ethanol Producer Magazine, 22 October 2007.
  • Schmer , M.R. (2008), Net Energy of Cellulosic Ethanol From Switchgrass, Proceedings of the National  Academy of Science, 15 January 2008, pp.464–69;
  • EPA (2009) , EPA and NHTSA Propose Historic National Program to Reduce Greenhouse Gases and Improve Fuel Economy for Cars and Trucks [Online] Available from <http://www.epa.gov/otaq/climate/regulations/420f09047a.pdf> [Accessed on 11 March 2010}
  • Earley, J and McKeown, (n.d.), A. Smart choices for biofuels, World watch Institue, [Online] Available from <http://www.worldwatch.org/files/pdf/biofuels.pdf> [Accessed on 11 March 2010]
  • WBCSD (2004), Mobility 2030 – Meeting the challenges to sustainability.


Projected per capita real income from 2000 to 2050 (in US$)

Asia India OECD Europe OECD North America OECD Pacific Africa
2000 4 3 19 26 22 1.5
2010 5 3.5 21 31 26 1.75
2020 6 4.5 27 36 34 2
2030 7.5 7 32 40 40.5 2.5
2040 9 8 38 44 50 3
2050 10 10.8 43 48 58 3.5

Projected growth in personal motorized vehicle ownership (as numbers per 1000 people).

Asia India OECD Europe OECD North America OECD Pacific Africa
2000 90 50 440 615 510 20
2010 100 65 470 635 560 30
2020 115 80 500 650 600 40
2030 135 100 530 680 640 52
2040 160 130 560 700 680 67
2050 210 190 615 710 710 75

Projected fuel use (1012 liters Gasoline Equivalent). 

Gasoline Diesel Jet fuel Residual fuel Total
2000 1 0.6 0.4 0.2 2.25
2010 1.2 0.8 0.45 0.24 2.9
2020 1.4 1 0.5 0.25 3.48
2030 1.6 1.3 0.7 0.26 3.95
2040 1.8 1.5 0.8 0.28 4.5
2050 2 1.6 1 0.3 5.08

Projected Green House Gas Emissions (in Gigatonnes of CO2 per year).

Asia India OECD Europe OECD North America OECD Pacific Africa
2000 0.2 0.2 1.5 2.5 0.6 0.1
2010 0.4 0.25 1.6 2.6 0.65 0.3
2020 0.8 0.33 1.45 2.9 0.7 0.5
2030 1 0.5 1.5 3.35 0.72 0.65
2040 1.4 0.6 1.55 3.6 0.76 0.8
2050 1.6 0.9 1.5 3.8 0.8 0.9

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