Trains not always best for lower transport emissions: report

It’s not always clear that switching from cars to trains is the most effective way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, reports a Swedish government investigation.

Trains not always best for lower transport emissions: report

The government previously tasked a commission to examine ways in which Sweden could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by changing modes of transportation.

Much of the discussion has been grounded on the assumption that there are more environmental benefits to transporting people and goods by rail rather than by road.

While Sweden’s climate panel also reached the same conclusion, the findings lack scientific support, writes the Dagens Industri (DI) newpaper.

As a result, Infrastructure Minister Åsa Torstensson asked the Swedish Institute for Transport and Communications Analysis (SIKA) to examine the issue in greater detail.

SIKA found that carbon dioxide emissions could be reduced by 20 percent by switching to alternate modes of transportation, but that the investments required to achieve the goal would be extremely costly.

Therefore, argues SIKA, there is great potential in examining which modes of transportation are best suited to various transport needs in order to utilize each type more effectively.

The investigation finds, for example, that from a social welfare perspective, achieving a transport shift using incentives affecting automotive transport, such as carbon and congestion taxes, is more effective than reducing carbon emissions by building new railways.

According to SIKA, high speed trains are especially expensive in relation to the amount by which carbon dioxide emissions can be reduced.

A one tonne reduction in carbon dioxide emissions costs 50,000 kronor ($6,200) when achieved using high speed trains, SIKA finds.

In comparison, the same reduction costs only 2,200 to 5,000 kronor when achieved through other investments in the rail network, while a 0.70 kronor hike in the carbon tax costs even less; 300 to 1,000 kronor per tonne.