The transportation industry poses major challenges for the next 20 years, taking into account not only the estimated greenhouse gas (GHG) emission scenario, but also existing bottlenecks for the industry in Brazil and the country heavy dependence on fossil-fuels.
According to the second Brazilian inventory of emissions, as of 2005, the transportation industry released 134.57 MtCO2e, which accounts for 6.1% of the Brazilian CO2e emissions (8.1% of CO2 emissions), exceeding industrial emissions in the energy sector. About 92% of the emissions in the industry come from road transportation, both for freight and passengers.
The major challenge is to increase efficiency in the transportation industry through intermodal integration. The size of the Brazilian territory and the country geographic conditions (extension of the coastline, watersheds) do not match with a freight transport matrix focused on road transportation. A more diversified matrix, with higher share of rail and water (inland and coastal) transport modes, is of strategic importance for the country, not only because it would consume less power per transported ton/kilometer, but also to increase competitiveness in the Brazilian industry, so as to reduce logistics costs and delays, as well as to ensure the transportation infrastructure in the country does not hinder the growth estimated for Brazil in the next decades.
Both the Brazilian National Logistics and Transportation Policy (PNLT) and the Brazilian National Climate Change Policy (PNMC) highlight the need to reduce the amount of freight carried on roads and invest on more efficient transport modes under the energy and the environmental perspectives. PNLT estimates, in a 15-20-year-horizon, to increase the share of rail transportation, from the current 25% to 32%, and increase the share of water transportation from 13% to 29%. Pipeline and air transportation modes would increase to 5% and 1% of the transportation matrix, respectively, and road transportation would drop from the current 58% to 33%.
Adoption of policies aiming at integrating transportation modes, enhancement of a cleaner road transport, supervision and regulation of vehicles (fleet update), and financing and development of infrastructure are all paths to reduce emissions in the sector. Brazil should take advantage of its resources and investments and elaborate a smart plan to have more energy efficiency in the industry, which requires debates among the ministries, as well as cooperation, pressure and participation of the private sector.
In parallel, incorporating sustainability concepts into urban mobility systems implies the need to establish sustainable transportation policies, integrated to other sector policies comprising, among other things, better urban planning, higher investments on non-polluting and no or low GHG emission modes of transport, better flow of commercial transportation vehicles, both public and private and, therefore, reduction in the average time it takes to go from one place to another. Urban traffic jams are not just a problem for drivers and passengers, since they represent huge losses for the Brazilian economy due to unproductive hours, energy waste and public health problems — which, besides being a serious issue by itself, also affects the productivity of organizations and the country economy.
Lastly, the extended use of biofuels in the Brazilian transportation energy matrix, observing socio-environmental criteria in the production, will enable both GHG emission reduction and decrease in the dependence on oil byproducts.