The Global Foresight Project on Transforming Mobility by Mid-Century

The foresight study provides ten key insights

Your browser doesn't support SVG images A full decarbonisation of the transport sector requires higher ambition in order to reach the goals of the Paris agreement:

A full decarbonisation must happen by 2050, as projections show. This means that the current level of ambition in countries world-wide – as estimated by the experts in this study – has to be raised to achieve these goals. The study moreover concludes that developed as well as developing countries should work on the same timeline. This gives rise to the question whether the so far discussed differentiated timelines in the Paris Agreement are necessary or useful for the transport sector. The surveyed experts do not expect that the transformation will slow down economic growth – to the contrary, they estimate that it will create more jobs than it may eliminate. In order to ensure that the transport sector effectively contributes to overall sustainable development, its decarbonisation needs to be accompanied by policies fit to reduce social divides and global development gaps.

Your browser doesn't support SVG images Energy and transport but also trade are the crucial fields of international governance that require more coherent and coordinated action:

According to the surveyed experts, these three sectors need to be better integrated at an international level to achieve the decarbonisation of the transport sector. While the energy sector will have to provide sufficient renewable energy for the transport sector, governance of the trade sector will have to provide the frameworks for a level playing field and the reduction of overall transport demand. Within the transport sector, international governance should strive for coordinated and coherent policies regarding emissions reduction and low-carbon technologies. Among the international organisations, the European Union (EU) will play a leading role in these efforts, according to the experts.

Your browser doesn't support SVG images Electricity from wind and solar will be the leading energy carrier for transport:

Experts overwhelmingly agree that the transport sector will mainly be powered by electricity from renewable sources. For land-based passenger and freight transport, directly used electricity from renewable sources will be the dominating energy carrier. Aviation and maritime transport on the other hand are expected to require the highest ambition, as the currently available options in these sectors still oppose the goal of decarbonisation. Therefore, more action is required in these areas in order to replace fossil energy carriers with synthetic fuels based on renewable energy. The expansion of the production of electricity from wind and solar needs to be extended and accelerated accordingly to make the transport transformation a success.

Your browser doesn't support SVG images Public transport, active modes of transport, shared mobility services as well as sustainable urban planning will be the backbone of climate-friendly urban transport.

Therefore, investments in public transport along with the promotion of cycling and walking have to be prioritized. To break the expected and continued dominance of the individually owned car, policies are needed to promote sharing and pooling. Sustainable city planning is essential to reduce transport demand in the first place and set the prerequisite for efficient and just mobility systems.

Your browser doesn't support SVG images The development of alternative drive technologies demands increased attention in rural areas without ruling out new mobility options.

While rural areas in developed countries are highly car-dependent, rural areas in developing countries are faced with a considerable lack of access to mobility. Experts expect that cars will still play an important role in rural transport in 2050. Alternative drive technologies will be crucial to meet this demand. At the same time, alternative mobility solutions are needed to reduce car dependency and reduce spending on new car infrastructure in favour of mobility systems that support decarbonisation and promote equal access.

Your browser doesn't support SVG images Digitisation and autonomous driving need a comprehensive political framework in order to support the decarbonisation of the transport sector:

The majority of experts see a potential for digitization to support the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, even though this is expected to be linked to a significant increase in energy demand due to data processing. Thus, the exploitation of this potential must be linked to strong international governance. The majority of the experts see a significant role of autonomous vehicles (AVs) in road passenger transport, although there is no clear position that they will dominate the market by 2050. In general, the potentially negative effects through increased urban sprawl and transport volumes as well as higher energy demand are seen as relevant concerns which also proves the need for political governance.

Your browser doesn't support SVG images The political task of promoting the successful structural change in the automotive and fossil fuel industry will require more efforts by policy makers.

Vested interests of incumbent industries – particularly the automotive and fossil fuel industries – are by far the biggest challenge to the decarbonisation of the transport sector, as the study reveals. The defining task for policymakers is actively supporting the structural change in these industries in order to manage their transformation.

Your browser doesn't support SVG images Countries with large incumbent industries, economic weight and political power have to play the key role in order to ensure the success of transport decarbonisation.

Experts see China, the United States (US), Germany, India and the EU in general as the key players to drive the transition. While countries without fossil oil resources would greatly benefit from transport decarbonisation, those with a high dependency on fossil fuel exports or automotive industries must support a structural shift in order to secure their long-term market competitiveness. This affects Russia, Saudi Arabia and the US, but also China and Germany. Furthermore, the experts point out that a shift in demand from fossil fuels to scarce metals such as cobalt or lithium, as well as rare earths needed for the sector’s electrification does not necessarily decrease the risk of geopolitical conflict related to the unequal distribution of resources.

Your browser doesn't support SVG images New technologies and mobility solutions can only unfold their full potential for decarbonisation if policy makers also focus on a change in mobility behaviour.

A lack of suitable technology is not expected to be a challenge. The success of the decarbonisation of transport will first and foremost depend on how the technology will be adopted. Most of the experts suggest that policymakers should focus more on regulation of behaviour in addition to regulation of technology.

Your browser doesn't support SVG images Decision-makers have to prioritise regulatory action over incentivisation and hereby provide a sound political framework, in order to ensure long-term investment security for public funding as well as private capital:

A lack of regulation was identified as the second biggest challenge to the transformation of transport after vested interests of incumbent industries. Fuel pricing and a forced phase-out of vehicles with combustion engines are seen as the most effective measures to support transport decarbonisation. Regulation needs to be complemented with investment, especially in public transport. Experts expect that sufficient funds will be available for the transformation of the transport sector. A combination of public and private sector money will have to be mobilised. This requires national and local governments to provide the right framework to make investments in sustainable mobility attractive to private investors. Reorienting public money currently spent on fossil fuel subsidies is as urgent as providing cities with greater financial autonomy, and supporting developing countries with sustainability-oriented, policy-based lending.


A synthesis of qualitative expert interviews on transforming mobility by mid-century

The transport sector is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions at present. It accounts for approximately one quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions and hence figures prominently in efforts to transform the energy economy and protect the climate. Without a scaled-up global mitigation effort, it will not be possible to reach the climate targets of the Paris Agreement. A low-carbon transformation of the global transport sector is the next necessary step in the global energy transformation.

Germany’s Federal Foreign Office has commissioned the project “T4<2° - Transport for under two degrees”, a global foresight study on the decarbonisation and transformation of the transport sector to identify challenges and opportunities for a sustainable, low-carbon transport sector. The findings provide decision-makers with a clear vision and specific recommendations on how to achieve decarbonisation of the sector and orchestrate international efforts for a global transport system transformation.

Authors: Christian Hochfeld (Agora Verkehrswende), Marena Pützschler (Agora Verkehrswende), Matthias Wanko (Agora Verkehrswende), Alexander Jung (Agora Verkehrswende until 02/2020), Mike Enskat (GIZ), Cornelia Hörtner (GIZ), Christian Mettke (GIZ), Johannes Uhl (GIZ), Mark Major (Growing Markets), Stefanie Sohm (Growing Markets), Christoph Wolff (WEF), Mary Loane (WEF)

Release date: 10/2020
Number of pages: 76

Download: A Global Foresight Study - PDF (2,5 MB)
Download: Policy Brief - PDF (1,1 MB)

Transport for under two degrees
A synthesis of qualitative expert interviews on transforming mobility by mid-century

This interim report displays some preliminary results from the first of the three project phases and sums up the most prominent insights from the interviews with more than 60 international experts. 

Release date: 10/2019
Number of pages: 19

Download - Interim Report: PDF (2,0 MB)

About the Project

T4<2° Transport For Under Two Degrees

Project Background

Responsible for approximately one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, the transport sector is one of the largest consumers of energy worldwide. Accordingly, the transport sector necessarily figures prominently in efforts to transform the energy economy and protect the climate. At the same time, by enabling the mobility of goods and people, the transport sector fulfils a crucial economic and societal role.

Most of today’s transport-related greenhouse gas emissions are produced in G20 countries. But the transport systems of emerging and developing nations are currently undergoing rapid growth and soon their emissions will be rising faster than those of industrialised countries. The OECD International Transport Forum estimates that by 2050, global transport emissions will grow by around 60 per cent unless immediate measures are taken. In the absence of such measures, the international community will fall dramatically short of the Paris Agreement’s 2015 goal of limiting global warming to well below 2°C.

The transport sector thus plays a major role in clean-energy initiatives and government actions to fight climate change. Yet protecting the climate is just one part of the equation. Ongoing urbanization has left cities all around the world with massive levels of congestion that have brought transport systems quite literally to a halt. Meanwhile, a lack of mobility options in rural areas has imperilled societal and economic growth. New digital technologies will provide some solutions but they will also bring disruptive changes. Addressing them represents an unprecedented political undertaking, one whose scope goes well beyond the transport sector. The geopolitical reconfigurations and shifts in global power that may result will themselves pose new challenges to transforming mobility.

Project Description

Germany’s Foreign Office commissioned the project T4<2° to develop global recommendations that promote a sustainable climate-friendly transport sector. The project will be carried out by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the World Economic Forum (WEF) and Agora Verkehrswende.

The project partners will develop recommendations with strategic foresight methods in a three-stage process. Based on a qualitative survey of an international and interdisciplinary group of 60 to 80 experts, the participating researchers will formulate hypotheses about potential developments in the transport sector and their interactions with politics and other areas of the economy (transport, energy, housing, manufacturing, employment, national security). In a second step, the researchers will employ a Delphi technique to verify their hypotheses with around 500 international experts. In the third and final step, they will draw on their previous insights as they make deep dives into the context of selected countries and regions in order to develop location-specific recommendations.

Timeline and Milestones

  • 04/2019: Project kick-off at the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue 2019 in Berlin
  • 05/2019: Project Presentation at the International Transport Forum Summit 2019 in Leipzig
  • 04 to 06/2019:Project phase 1: Context Mapping with 60 to 80 international and interdisciplinary experts
  • 07 to 08/2019: Project phase 2: Delphi survey with 500 international and interdisciplinary experts
  • 07/2019: Project presentation at the WEF Annual Meeting of the New Champions in Dalian (“Summer Davos”)
  • 10/2019 to 08/2020: Project phase 3: Regional deep dives in selected countries and regions
  • 08/2020: Publication of Project Report
  • 09/2020: Closing conference at the WEF Annual Meeting of the New Champions in Tianjin


T4<2° uses reliable methods of Strategic Foresight to develop policy recommendati ons for transforming mobility. Our research consists of three phases.

1. Context Mapping

In stage one, we will interview a transdisciplinary board of between 60 to 80 international experts surrounding the mobility transformation. These interviews will revolve around eight themes:

Through these interviews we seek to understand which issues the experts consider most important and the actions they deem most urgent in order to achieve a mobility transition. Based on our assessment, we will formulate hypotheses on trends in mobility and their potential interactions in different sectors and political arenas.
The questionnaire of the context mapping phase can be found here: Context Mapping Questionaire (PDF 226 KB)

2. Delphi survey

In stage two, we will test our hypotheses by carrying out a Delphi survey of around 500 international experts. We will group their responses into different narratives and, on this basis, identify policy options and recommendations for decarbonizing the transport sector. A Delphi survey is a well-established tool for formulating assumptions about future developments in a certain topic. During such a survey, hypotheses are presented to a board of experts who are asked whether they agree with it. For the issues that prove to be most controversial, refined hypotheses will be formulated. Those will again be presented to the board of experts for assessment. The result of this process are well-founded assumptions about the future development of the sector. The questionnaires of the first and second round of the Delphi survey can be found here: Round 1 (PDF 226 KB) / Round 2 (PDF 228 KB)

3. Recommendations

Based on these assumptions we will develop policy recommendations to achieve a global mobility transformation towards decarbonisation. In order to so, workshops with experts will take place globally. A final report will present our findings and conclusions to the public.

Christoph Wolff (WEF)

About us


In order to achieve the targets of the Paris climate agreement, ambitious action is needed globally to reduce emissions from the transport sector. At the same time, transport demand is expected to rise steadily in view of continuous urbanisation and motorisation. A global mobility transformation is necessary and the international community needs to provide the necessary framework conditions.

Event Details:
Project presentation: Full power ahead! How to stimulate a global decarbonisation of mobility.
Wednesday, 10 April 2019, 9.30 – 10.45 am
Federal Foreign Office, Berlin, Conference Hall “Willy Brandt”
Download Programme: PDF (2 MB)

2015arrow-downcalendarclose-gradientclose-gradientmenu-gradientmenu-gradientmenu_pinslide to leftslider to righttwitter_internyoutube-inter