Decarbonizing Transport Sector in India

2021 JUL 26

Mains   > Environment & Ecology   >   Global warming   >   Urban transportation


  • On 23rd June 2021, NITI Aayog and the International Transport Forum (ITF) of OECD jointly launched the ‘Decarbonizing Transport in Emerging Economies’ (DTEE) project in India


  • The transportation sector is responsible for about one-quarter of global GHG emissions and emissions are growing, even in the developed world where other emissions are generally flat
  • Climate change cannot be stopped without decarbonising transport.
  • Decarbonizing Transport Sector means adoption of carbon-neutral mobility to mitigate climate change and curb pollution.


  • Increased pollution and congestion
    • India’s transport sector, which caters to over a billion people, is constantly expanding due to rapid urbanization >> contributing to increased pollution and congestion.
  • Huge market for automobiles:
    • As an emerging market, India is one of the largest car and two-wheeler manufacturers in the world.
    • Our motor vehicle fleet is growing rapidly with the vehicles plying on the road expected to almost double to over 200 million by 2030 >> thus every new vehicle adding to the carbon emissions
  • Significant in meeting our pledge to reduce emissions intensity of GDP under the Paris Agreement:
    • The transport sector of India is the third most greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting sector and accounted for 14 per cent of our energy-related CO2 emissions.
    • These emissions have more than tripled since 1990, and with India’s urban population expected to double by 2050, they are likely to increase further.
  • Helps in reducing import dependency:
    • Decarbonizing transport sector involves shifting from fossil fuel based transport systems to cleaner alternatives. As India meet its 82% of crude oil demand from imports >> reducing the demand of crude oil helps India to cut its import bill.
  • Helps in tackling air pollution:
    • According to World Air Quality Report, 2019, 21 out of 30 polluted cities in the world were in India.
    • Transportation sources account for approximately a third of PM pollution in India cities
  • Multiplier effect on the economy
    • Efforts towards de-carbonizing transport sector could lead to emergence of newer business models, advanced research, greater employment opportunities and an overall multiplier effect on the economy
  • Transport sector can lock-in significant emissions into the future:
    • Depending on its modal structure and which technologies are used to propel the vehicles needed to move people and goods, transport is a sector that can lock-in significant emissions into the future, due to the long lifespan of vehicles and fuel supply infrastructure.


  • Share of transport sector in total carbon emissions:
    • Out of the total carbon dioxide emissions in India, 13% come from the transport sector.
    • These emissions have more than tripled since 1990.
  • Share of non-motorised transport in Indian cities
    • Share of non-motorised transport in many of the Indian cities  is high compared to similarly sized cities globally.
    • It is reported that in Indian cities with populations of over 1 million, non-motorised transport accounted for more than 25 per cent of passenger trips, compared with approximately 14 per cent in London


  • Pandemic impact:
    • The Covid-19 pandemic has posed a number of challenges for the transport sector, one of which is the shift of citizens from public to private and personal modes of transport.
    • Public transit and shared mobility services have witnessed an unprecedented impact on account of pandemic control measures and public hesitancy arising out of fear of contracting the virus
  • Lack of reliable data on transport sector:
    • In India, while we have abundance of data, we lack an integrated approach to use it in a meaningful way.
  • Burden shifting:
    • Often well-intended policy decisions, aimed at controlling emissions may actually result in a situation where emissions in another stage of the product life cycle increase, a concept known as burden shifting.
  • Challenges in implementing electric mobility:
    • Low market penetration:
      • Currently, the Indian electric vehicles’ market penetration is one of the lowest in the world.
    • Building charging infrastructure:
      • A big challenge is the development of charging infrastructure which will need to be combined with existing refuelling stations and at alternative locations closer to homes.
    • Lack of battery cell manufacturing:
      • There is a complete absence of primary battery cell manufacturing in India which poses the risk of increasing trade deficit.
      • At the moment, most manufacturers rely on batteries imported from Japan, China, Korea and Europe.


  • National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP) 2013:
    • It seeks to achieve national fuel security by promoting hybrid and electric vehicles in the country.
    • It sets an ambitious target to achieve 6-7 million sales of hybrid and electric vehicles every year from 2020 onwards.
  • FAME India scheme
    • FAME India is a part of the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan.
    • The scheme provides fiscal and monetary incentives for adoption and market creation of both hybrid and electric technologies vehicles in the country.
    • FAME focuses on 4 areas i.e. Technology development, Demand Creation, Pilot Projects and Charging Infrastructure.
    • In the First Phase of the Scheme upto 31st March 2019, about 2,80,987 hybrid and electric vehicles were supported by way of demand incentive, amounting to about Rs 359 crore.
    • Phase-II of FAME India Scheme is being implemented for a period of 3 years with effect from 1st April, 2019
  • Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme for manufacturing Advanced Chemistry Cells (ACC)
    • PLI scheme for manufacturing ACC aims setting up of giga scale factories, promoting of exports, achieving economies of scale, producing cutting edge high quality globally competitive products and most importantly creating the next wave of job growth in energy sector as it will transform many sectors like mobility, grid stability, consumer electronics and many more.
    • This scheme will further accelerate EV adoption
  • Alternative fuels:
    • Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation (SATAT) initiative
      • It is aimed at setting up of Compressed Bio-Gas production plants and make it available in the market for use in automotive fuels
    • National Policy on Biofuels 2018:
      • The policy is aimed at taking forward the indicative target of achieving 20% blending of biofuels with fossil-based fuels by 2030 >> hence helps in reducing dependency on crude oil
      • The policy expands the scope of raw materials to be used for ethanol production by allowing the use of sugarcane juice, damaged food grains like broken rice etc.
  • Initiatives from Railways:
    • Electrification by 2024
      • Plan for transition from a diesel-powered rail network to an electrified rail network by 2024
    • Net-zero emitter by 2030
      • Railways has pledged to become a net-zero emitter by 2030
    • Increase the share renewable energy
      • Indian Railways has already set targets to increase the share of low-carbon renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power in its total energy mix
    • Dedicated freight corridors:
      • Operationalization of dedicated freight corridors will cut emissions by almost 450 million tonnes in the first 30 years.
  • Metro rails
    • They are rapidly expanding across the country
    • Currently, 10 Indian cities have functional metro rail networks
    • As many as 15 new cities may have metro rail connectivity in the near future
  • Concept of high speed regional mobility
    • For example the Delhi-Meerut Regional Rapid Transit System and the Kerala Semi-High Speed Rail are both transformational projects, which will provide quick and seamless inter-city linkage and take millions of vehicles off the road.
  • Taxation:
    • Indirect tax: GST on EVs is reduced to 5% from the current rate of 12%.
    • Direct tax: The government has extended an additional income tax deduction of Rs 1.5 Lakh on interest paid on loans to the buyers of Electric Vehicle
  • Decarbonizing Transport in Emerging Economies (DTEE) project
    • It is five-year project jointly launched by NITI Aayog and the International Transport Forum (ITF) of OECD
    • It will help India to develop a pathway towards a low-carbon transport system through the development of modelling tools and policy scenarios.
    • The project will design a tailor-made transport emissions assessment framework for India.


  • Ropeways, for Overhead Mass Rapid Transit (OMRTS)
    • This mode of transport is already being explored in Northeastern states along the lines of the highly successful La Paz Ropeway in Bolivia.


  • Require sustainable and innovative policies backed by data:
    • New data collection techniques and modelling exercises have become available that offer larger sample sizes, cover a wide geography and give real-time insights.
    • The adoption and advancement of GPS, IoTs, Bluetooth, NFC and WiFi, Smart Cards and Smartphone apps have become a disruptive form of data collection >> which can aid us in framing effective policies towards de-carbonizing transport sector
  • A scenario-based modelling approach for formulating transport policies
    • Through such modelling, we can assess how GHG emissions reductions could be achieved through a feasible set of scenarios rather than apply a one-size-fits-all policy decision.
  • Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) approach
    • It allows us to assess the components of the transport ecosystem throughout their useful life, from cradle to grave, and assess the impact on the environment at every stage.
    • However, LCA avoids the issue of burden shifting by virtue of being applicable across the product lifecycle.
  • Precautions needed to reduce shock on tax revenues:
    • The government should adopt pre-emptive strategies to wean away dependence on petroleum tax revenues to deal with the expected dip in central and state government revenue collection along with the promotion of electric mobility.
  • A balanced approach:
    • Policymakers must focus on promoting public transport parallely with promoting electric mobility to realise the full benefits of an EV transition.
    • A majority of trips and passenger travel demand must be met by public transport and non-motorised transport options such as walking and cycling.
  • Skill training required:
    • Adopt training and skilling initiatives to create a workforce that can cater to the needs of EV manufacturing as a prerequisite to meet any anticipated demand for EVs.
  • Emphasize on new economic activities
    • Focus on new economic activities such as battery recycling (urban mining) and other services associated with electric mobility for job creation under an EV transition plan.
  • Increasing R&D in EVs:
    • Creating a vibrant battery research and development ecosystem domestically to develop alternative technologies containing minerals with low supply risks and battery recycling techniques to recover the raw materials in the batteries.
  • Innovative fuel alternatives:
    • Auto majors have developed vehicles running on fuel cells using hydrogen as fuel.
    • Hydrogen is a clean fuel discharging water vapour when the engine runs.
    • India should undertake some modest measures for learning and creating capacity for the hydrogen economy.


Q. Examine the efficacy of government policies for decarbonisation of the transport sector. Also assess the challenges related to adoption of electric vehicles in India?