Transitioning SA's Petrochemical Value Chain

Decarbonisation of transport demand

Opportunities for decarbonisation of liquid fuels demand and supply for transport considered here are classified under the widely applied Avoid, Shift, Improve (ASI) framework. The ASI framework provides a way of categorising transport mitigation interventions, prioritising reducing environmental impact, reducing congestion, and creating more liveable cities, with a primary focus on access to opportunities rather than ‘transport’ per se. The ASI framework also emphasises the just transition imperatives of addressing spatial imbalances, improving access and reducing transport costs, particularly for the poorest members of society, as opposed to a technological and mitigation-centric approach which focuses on swapping out fossil fuels for non-emitting ones. This is particularly relevant for a developing country context such as South Africa’s.

Transport infrastructure is long-lived, and systems that are being planned now are likely to still be operational for at least 30 or 40 years. To achieve the emissions reductions required towards meeting a net zero target in 2050 and remaining within a fixed carbon budget, new ways of thinking about transport infrastructure models need to be implemented now. Some options that will make a positive contribution to the transition in this sector are presented here. 

Decarbonisation modelling for the transport sector has tended to investigate the ‘improve’-and to some degree the ‘shift’ aspects of the ASI framework more than the ‘avoid’. This is understandable due to issues of model tractability with ‘avoid’ aspects including telecommuting and spatial planning being complex to integrate into modelling exercises. Further investigation into how to integrate these types of demand-side levers into models will be useful to pursue. 

The decarbonisation of shipping is not considered further in this study given that these emissions are not currently under South Africa’s jurisdiction in terms of international climate policy architecture. However, we do note here the opportunity for South Africa to supply green hydrogen-based fuels for shipping, given its favourable geographical location.

In this study, we contextualise the South African transport sector’s decarbonisation through an ASI framework, highlighting key aspects that can drive the sustainability of the sector. Explore the ‘Avoid’, ‘Shift’ and ‘Improve’ concepts further in these deeper dives.