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How can transparency unlock the full potential of decarbonizing transport?

20 March 2024

Summary of the article’s main points

  • Reducing transport emissions is crucial for tackling climate change.
  • Transparency is a key enabler for decarbonizing the transport sector in a way that balances environmental goals with social and economic well-being. 
  • Data-driven climate action enables countries to understand their transport emissions,  design effective climate policies and track progress over time to continuously improve.
  • Decarbonizing the transport sector can have important socio-economic co-benefits, such as improved air quality and cost savings.
  • ICAT has supported many countries to enhance transparency in the transport sector, including Antigua and Barbuda, Cambodia, Cuba, Nigeria and Sri Lanka. 

Transport represents a vital sector in the global climate change efforts. Accounting for 15 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, it is one of the five most polluting sectors economy-wide. In addition, transport emissions are increasing due to rising global activity levels. 

A fundamental transformation is needed to bring the transport sector to where it needs to be for the world to meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement. In recognition of this, most countries’ nationally determined contributions (NDCs) mention the transport sector, with many of them including specific mitigation measures, and some going as far as to indicate quantified emission reduction targets. 

Transport is equally important for individuals and societies, relying on it for personal mobility and economic growth. In this context, policies and actions targeting the transport sector need to support the achievement of climate targets while ensuring, in parallel, the well-being of populations. 

Data and transparency can be a most valuable tool in countries’ efforts to unlock the full potential of decarbonizing transport, creating a future where net zero emissions coexist with thriving communities and economies. 

Quality data as the essential starting point for climate action

Measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) frameworks establish a system of guidelines and procedures that provide countries with the quality climate data that they need to have a clear understanding of their greenhouse gas emissions. Establishing a robust and comprehensive MRV framework is the first step to enable evidence-based climate action. 

In Sri Lanka, the lack of availability of historical transport data sets made designing an MRV framework for the transport sector a real priority. This MRV framework would allow the government to systematically collect and analyze essential data from all the relevant ministries and agencies. Sri Lanka’s approach prioritized stakeholder engagement through extensive consultations. The input collected from the stakeholders fed to the development of the centralized MRV system and a roadmap for its operationalization, which included the definition of clear roles and responsibilities. Sri Lanka also led awareness-raising and capacity building efforts to adequately capacitate the relevant stakeholders to play their respective roles in the national MRV system. Empowered by the newly established MRV system, Sri Lanka was able to leverage the enhanced data quality for strategic decision-making. After establishing an emissions baseline for the sector, the government used the data to inform estimates for mitigation options and proactively assess NDC actions to determine their effectiveness. Through policy assessments, the country evaluated the greenhouse gas effects of diverse transport actions and policies, subsequently leading to a review and refinement of its transport sector NDCs. 

Sri Lanka used the following tools and methodologies: GACMO, Transport Pricing Methodology


Sri Lanka’s updated NDC aims to boost public transport, including trains & buses. Photo by gemmmm 🖤 on Unsplash

Scenario analysis to illuminate options, risks and opportunities

By performing greenhouse gas projections, countries can estimate how greenhouse gas emissions might change in the future. Different scenarios can be analyzed to see how proactive mitigation actions can influence emissions compared to a baseline scenario. 

Transport accounts for more than 50 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions of Antigua and Barbuda. In a forward-looking approach to climate action, Antigua and Barbuda analyzed different mitigation scenarios to gain insight into their emission reduction potential. National stakeholders suggested the analysis of two transport mitigation strategies, as the most important to supplement the NDC. Those were related to the electrification of the transport system and the establishment of fuel efficiency standards. The analysis started from an existing baseline specification report, which underwent additional quality checks. Antigua and Barbuda used a modeling tool to project greenhouse gas emissions from 2020 to 2030 and to 2050. The conclusion was that both scenarios would lead to a reduction in emissions, with the electrification of vehicles being overall more efficient than the increase in fuel efficiency. A combination of both could cut greenhouse gas emissions from transport by 12 percent by 2050. Antigua and Barbuda updated its NDC in 2021, introducing multiple new targets to increasingly promote the electrification of road transport, and the establishment of efficiency standards.

Antigua and Barbuda used the following tools: GACMO, LEAP, TraCAD


A combination of efficient fuel transport and electric transport can cut greenhouse gas emissions from transport in Antigua and Barbuda by 12 per cent by 2050.

Tracking progress over time for continuous improvement

Through their NDCs, countries pledge to contribute to the global fight against climate change with specific actions and measures. As these NDCs are being implemented, countries can leverage transparency to see if they are on the right track toward meeting their commitments, and readjust if necessary.

Cuba’s NDCs committed to establishing less carbon-intensive road transport through the reduction of fossil fuel consumption in land vehicles by 50 percent by 2030. To track progress on its NDC targets, the country built capacity and developed data collection methodologies and procedures for tracking its NDC mitigation targets. This was achieved through the definition of clear roles and responsibilities for national stakeholders, the  development of standardized templates and procedures for data collection, and capacity building to improve technical knowledge. Cuba also worked to improve the quality of data and the accuracy of the targets included in its NDCs, using the GACMO tool. The data collection and analysis revealed that Cuba had overall underestimated emission reductions in its original calculations. After harmonizing methodologies across sectors and stakeholders, an additional potential reduction of 1 million tonnes CO2eq from transport from 2022 to 2030 was revealed. Thanks to this work, Cuba achieved a clear and accurate understanding of its emissions and the effectiveness of its climate actions, and the ability to continuously monitor them over time. The new estimates and NDC tracking framework can further facilitate a high-quality BTR submission and a well-informed update of Cuba’s NDC.

Cuba used the following tool: GACMO


Cuba’s NDC introduces a target of 50 percent reduction of fossil fuel consumption in road transport by 2030. Photo by Ricardo IV Tamayo on Unsplash

Building effective policies based on evidence

Transparency enables smart, evidence-based policies and measures for decarbonizing the transport sector. Data is used to design, evaluate and adjust policies for a targeted and efficient approach to reducing emissions, so that all efforts contribute meaningfully to achieving climate objectives. 

The transport sector represents a big part of Cambodia’s greenhouse gas emissions and a significant opportunity for emissions reduction. Recognizing the value of transparency in supporting the achievement of its climate objectives, Cambodia enhanced its national climate transparency infrastructure for the energy and transport sectors with comprehensive MRV systems and institutional arrangements. The country further built national capacity to conduct impact assessments of energy and transport policies, to determine if they are truly effective. The data, mechanisms and capacity in place are crucial for monitoring and evaluating Cambodia’s existing ambitious climate policies, such as its Long-Term Strategy for Carbon Neutrality. They are also useful for designing new policies based on data, to ensure that they contain realistic targets and are aligned with national development priorities. Cambodia’s National Energy Efficiency Policy was introduced in 2022, including the definition of specific targets for the transport sector and a roadmap for achieving them by 2030. As energy and transport play a vital role in driving economic growth, the policy serves a double purpose and synergistic approach, supporting progress not only in Cambodia’s climate action, but also its national development.

Cambodia used the following tools and methodologies: GACMO, TraCAD, Transport Pricing Methodology


Cambodia’s National Energy Efficiency Policy sets the goal of 5 percent reduction of energy consumption in the transport sector from 24,662 GWh to 23,383 GWh. Photo by Humphrey Muleba on Unsplash

Understanding the social and economic impact

Transparency can be used to illuminate the social and economic impacts of climate policies and measures, helping to understand how they are affecting economies and populations. This is particularly important for the transport sector, where climate policies can affect anything from the job market, to air quality, to access to necessities. 

For Nigeria, a country with one of the largest economies in Africa and the largest population in the continent, decarbonizing transport represents a substantial investment with far-reaching implications. To grasp the potential socioeconomic impacts, Nigeria analyzed sustainable development indicators associated with its NDC mitigation measures. Such measures included stricter emissions standards and a shift from cars to buses. The co-benefits were reduced congestion, savings in spending on fuel and a reduction of adverse health impacts. More specifically, displacing cars and motorcycles with new buses could significantly cut the billions of hours that Nigerians lose in congested traffic, as well as the associated major economic losses. Spending on fuel could be up to USD 27 billion lower in the period 2020-2030, representing savings equivalent to around 0.5 per cent of the national GDP. The stricter emissions standards and shift to public transport could reduce the amount of fuel combustion, preventing 750 premature deaths due to air pollution a year over the decade. Meanwhile, the economic value of avoiding health costs rises to over USD 1 billion. Overall, cumulative quantified benefits of decarbonizing the transport sector over the period of 2020-2030 could amount to a spectacular USD 39 million. 

Nigeria used the following tool: TRACE


The economic benefits of the transport mitigation measures set out in Nigeria’s unconditional NDC targets amount to USD 5.4 billion per year by 2030. Photo by Ben Iwara on Unsplash


The Initiative for Climate Action Transparency (ICAT) supports countries to build the transparency frameworks needed to take effective climate action and advance national sustainable development priorities. ICAT provided support that enabled the achievements outlined above, through tailored country projects and methodological guidance and tools from the ICAT toolbox.

How can transparency unlock the full potential of decarbonizing transport?

Photo by Vitalijs Barilo on Unsplash