India, as a signatory to the Paris Agreement (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) and the UN Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), faces many challenges.

To achieve some of its objectives under these, and specially to fulfil its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs under the Paris Agreement), an ‘India Roadmap on Low Carbon and Sustainable Mobility (Decarbonisation of Indian Transport Sector)’, was unveiled last week.

The collective effort of 45 professionals from 36 organisations, the report took some 24 months to complete, with the help of some of the best in the sector, from government, industry, voluntary organisations and logistics specialists. What they came up with is a blueprint which, if taken seriously, could help India reduce significantly the current 18 per cent of CO2 emissions from road transport.

The report envisaged an integrated approach for best results and drew up “actionable recommendations” for the future, breaking them into the short term (up to 2022), medium term (2022 to 2030) and the long term (2030 to 2050).

So, what are the recommendations, the challenges to be overcome? What will it take to achieve such ambitious goals?

In the short term, the report suggests that a national Transport Authority be established with Unified Metropolitan Transport Authorities for metros and a task force that would be a Citizens’ Charter for Urban Mobility.

This will act at a strategic, tactical and operational level, adopting an integrated approach to building modern railway stations, bus ports, air and seaports through a systems approach and encourage transit-oriented development. It also emphasises a change in the permit system and the introduction of ‘one country one permit’ to incentivise inter-State shared public transport. The role of the RTO would also be redefined with automation of licensing and fitness certificates, among others.

In the medium term, the report supports setting up an integrated National Logistics Systems, with an increased use of coastline and inland waterways for passenger and freight movement. It suggests a Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) mode for multimodal logistics solutions. For effective governance, there is emphasis on enforcing congestion charging in large metros, implementing the vehicle scrap policy and setting up scheduled services and app-based services for public transport.

In the long term, the report favours investment in advanced technologies for electric mobility and intelligent transport systems. It envisages that, by then, 100 per cent EV stations will be powered by renewable energy through decentralised mode or through PPAs with developers.

The focus will also be to ensure implementation of all advanced bio fuels as envisaged under the National Policy on Biofuels and work on alternatives for lithium-ion batteries — such as sodium-ion batteries, hydrogen fuel cells and thermal batteries.

The roadmap, which was unveiled recently by Nitin Gadkari, the Union Minister for Transport and Highways, has been brought out by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry and supported by WWF-India, Paris Process on Mobility and Climate (PPMC) and Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation. At the presentation, the minister assured stakeholders that the government will play the role of a facilitator and support the private sector in its initiatives to develop sustainable transportation systems.

The government believes the industry should consider sustainable transportation that comprises low-carbon fuels, electric vehicles, water transportation, conversion of diesel vehicles to LNG and CNG, use of ethanol, methanol and hydrogen fuels for vehicles.

It wants the industry to reach out to concerned State governments and ministries and suggest changes in policies to develop implementable and economically viable projects.

According to Patrick Oliva, Co-Founder, PPMC, the economic viability of projects is an important aspect to develop a low-carbon and sustainable transportation system. The private sector needs to invest in such ventures, with FICCI and the government playing a facilitative role.

8 distinct components

To achieve the goals, the report highlights eight distinct components. These include an urban transformation for healthier, inclusive cities; a low-carbon energy supply strategy; optimising supply chains to manage freight transport emissions; discouraging using personal transport for commuting, shopping and accessing services; providing low-carbon solutions for rural populations. And last of all, accelerating action on adaptation in transport sector, with large-scale deployment of economic instruments and leveraging of finance.

When focusing on public transportation, the India Roadmap proposes to shift the paradigm to the movement of people, rather than the movement of vehicles, as the effective means to reduce congestion, air pollution, and vehicle kilometres. This would mean transporting optimal number of people with minimum transport. For this, it suggests an integrated approach of governance and institutions, infrastructure and technology for different modes towards sustainability.

Dilip Chenoy, Secretary General, FICCI, believes “The Roadmap is an opportunity for stakeholders in government, business, urban and transport planning to integrate low-carbon and sustainable options into their strategic decisions.”

As for infrastructure development, the report suggests creation of a national grid of common battery-charging infrastructure, development of bus and multi-modal terminals across the country on the lines of airports, build multi-modal logistics parks around major manufacturing and production centres with seamless rail and road connectivity to nearby ports, inland waterway terminals, and distribution centres.

It urges the government to earmark budgets for sustainable mobility for integrated transport systems and not just for specific projects such as metro, BRT or city bus projects. It suggests that a substantial part of the road project budget be allocated towards developing public transport infrastructure, such as multi-modal terminals, surface ports, bus stations, highway amenity centres and multi-modal logistics parks.

To encourage the private sector, the report argues for extended incentives for manufacture and use of EVs and biofuels. A key suggestion is the establishment of ‘Green Taxonomy’ to facilitate asset-backed securitised deals through diversification of green bonds into the sustainable mobility sector. And dedicated funds to provide viability gap funding and partial risk sharing facility to build a new green economy.