Environmental Research Paper
The current and future carbon efficiency of the European rail industry
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2 Introduction 3-4 What can the rail industry do to improve its carbon footprint? 5-6 How can signalling and control help? 7-8 Will rail remain the most carbon efficient transport? 9-10 Implications
It is now widely accepted that carbon emissions from human activities are a strong driver of climate change. If global emissions continue at the current rate, the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will reach double pre-industrial levels by 2050. Even in the most conservative scenario models, there is a 77% chance1 of a global temperature rise exceeding 2°C. The socio-economic implications of such a rise are substantial, and a global reduction in carbon dioxide emissions is critical.
The transport industry is a major producer of carbon dioxide (responsible for approximately a quarter of global emissions), but levels vary by transport mode. It is therefore vital to be able to compare the carbon performance of different modes and to benchmark their improvement over time. In preparing this paper, we have reviewed over 70 publications on the topic from government bodies, academics and the transport industry. Rail is widely acknowledged as the most carbon efficient form of transport, even among independent bodies (and our own calculations support this, even when secondary emissions are included). However, there is evidence of initiatives in both road and air to significantly reduce emissions. If it is to remain the most ‘green’ form of transport, rail cannot rest on its laurels. Improvements must be made.
Stern Review (2006), Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change