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Net-Zero Transport Is a ‘Fantasy’ Without Major New Investment: Report


Switching to an EV might not be enough.
Photo: Justin Sullivan (Getty Images)

In the past year, governments around the world have allotted billions of dollars, pounds, euros, and every other currency you can think of to try and cut global carbon emissions. Here in the U.S., the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law invested heavily in public transport and greener means of travel. But, a new report warns that we’re not doing enough to cut pollution from transport.

Targets have been set to curb emissions from transportation to become net-zero by 2050. This means that transportation such as driving, riding the train or scooting around town should either emit no emissions, or have any greenhouse gasses offset by carbon capture tech or other such initiatives.

But, The Moving World report from investment firm UP Partners warns that we’re going to fall well short of that target at today’s rate. In fact, the report warns that it is a “fantasy” to believe that transportation can become carbon-neutral by 2050 without massive investment.

As it stands, mobility represents 37 percent of all of the United States’ CO2 emissions, making it the largest of any sector. Of those emissions, 78 percent of that total comes from ground transport, 11 percent from sea, 10 percent from air, and just one percent comes from rail.

A photo of an electric Amtrak Acela train.

Trains are out here just contributing one percent to our transport emissions.
Photo: Robert Nickelsberg (Getty Images)

Over the next 10 years, UP Partners predicted that this could rise by as much as 11 percent instead of dropping back. In fact, if governments want to reach their lofty goals, they need to reduce emissions from transport by at least 22 percent by 2030. And to do this, much more needs to be done.

Thankfully, saving the planet seems to be on trend at the moment and UP Partners reports that investment from the private sector is booming. In fact, investment in cleaner mobility is now “outpacing most tech sectors,” according to UP partners. And, investment in the space was 29 times greater than 2013 levels. In fact, more than $375 billion has been invested in clean transportation since 2013.

But, throwing cash at new ways of traveling around town, like electric scooters, cars and trains, will solve only one part of the problem. No matter how jazzy your electric car is, it still has to rely on our crumbling infrastructure here in the U.S.

And that’s where the warning goes dark once again.

A photo of someone riding an electric scooter in Central Park.

On yer scooter.
Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld (Getty Images)

As electrification picks up speed around the world and here in America, demand for batteries is expected to rise by 900 percent by 2030. This, coupled with the 800 percent rise in the price of lithium, which is essential in battery construction, between 2020 and 2022 make for stark reading.

All this means that battery prices are going up per kWh for the first time in 12 years.

And there’s more, even if we could all afford to buy these swanky new batteries that could help save the planet, you might not even be able to keep them charged up enough to run your car.

UP Partners warns that the “U.S. electrical grid is not well prepared” to deal with the additional strain of hundreds of thousands of EVs charging up every day. In fact, it warns that if every car in California were electric today, electricity consumption across the state would increase by 47 percent.

Clearly, it’s going to take a mammoth effort from both the private and public sector if we really want to make our travel around town a net-zero carbon emitter by 2050.

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