Worldwide, transportation sector greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are the fastest growing and most difficult to control. In Chile, where the transportation sector is growing even faster than the rest of the economy and accounts for one-third of the nation’s energy use, per capita GHG emissions are relatively high and car and truck ownership rates continue to increase.
Until recently, the environmental consequences of Chile’s rapid development received little scrutiny. GHG emission levels continue to be a low priority for policymakers, but severe air pollution and traffic congestion are raising awareness of the need to address transportation-related environmental problems. As one of the world’s most sophisticated countries at transferring transportation infrastructure and services provision to the private sector – most are now owned or managed by private companies, and market principles are being widely used in providing traditional public services – Chile could pioneer market-based approaches to transportation and environmental challenges.
This report creates two scenarios of GHG emissions from Chile’s transportation sector in 2020. It finds:
- Greenhouse gas emissions increase 117 percent in the high, “business-as-usual” scenario but only 42 percent in the low scenario.
- Urban transportation strategies driven by concerns over air quality, traffic congestion, and the high cost of road infrastructure investments would also have climate change benefits. Examples of these strategies are:
- Introducing new and enhanced technology, such as converting urban buses from diesel to hydrogen fuel cell and using natural gas and small battery-powered electric cars.
- Improving public transportation, such as integrating bus routing and fare structures, establishing exclusive bus lanes and rights-of-way, offering more comfortable buses, and significantly expanding Metro and suburban rail services.
- Encouraging smaller cars and alternatives to car use, e.g., by implementing parking restrictions, charges, and road fees, and eliminating tax incentives for larger and inefficient cars and light trucks.
- For interurban transportation, the main problem is inadequate road, rail, port, and airport infrastructure. Supporting rail infrastructure will restrain GHG emissions.
Transportation in Developing Countries: Greenhouse Gas Scenarios for Chile is part of a five-report series on transportation sector GHG emissions in developing countries. The report’s findings are based on a Lifecycle Energy Use and Emissions Model (LEM) developed by the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California at Davis. It estimates CO2-equivalent GHG emissions from the transportation sector. The Pew Center gratefully acknowledges Ralph Gakenheimer and Chris Zegras of MIT, Eduardo Sanhueza of Climate Change and Development (a Chilean consulting firm), and Michael Walsh, an independent transportation consultant, for their review of early drafts. The authors also express their gratitude to Barbara Cifuentes of the Universidad de Chile.
Chile is a lightly populated country of 15 million that has undergone major economic transformations. Over the past 25 years, the economy has evolved from a slow-growing, state-directed one into a fast-growing, market-oriented one. Chile’s South American neighbors imitated this transformation during the nineties. In the transportation sector, as in other areas of the economy, the private sector took over many traditionally state-managed activities. Chile has undertaken more structural changes in this sector in the past two decades than perhaps any other developing country.
This report addresses changes in transportation, energy use, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and other environmental impacts resulting from economic growth and transportation choices. It includes interurban transportation and the urban system in the capital city, Santiago. Chile is an especially interesting case study because of its enthusiastic embrace of market competition in all aspects of transportation. In particular, it has developed a franchising system by which the private sector has been encouraged to finance infrastructure development. However, during this period of economic transformation and growth, Chile has not addressed many environmental problems, including GHG emissions. The expected increase in emissions in the next twenty years is significant, and any reductions would result from indirect efforts intended to address other urban, environmental, and congestion problems.
Chile’s transportation sector is growing even faster than the rest of the economy, especially in Santiago. Between 1985 and 1998, the Chilean economy increased by 2.5 times (7.4 percent per year on average) and the transportation sector by about 3.5 times (over 10 percent per year on average). Between 1977 and 1991, cars increased their share of passenger travel by more than 60 percent, while the bus share fell by 27 percent. These shifts are motivated by the strong urbanization process, with over 85 percent of the population now living in cities, and strong growth in car ownership, with one in ten persons now owning a car. Cars now account for 26 percent of travel within cities (measured as passenger-kilometers) and 41 percent between cities. Public transportation has been losing market share for decades.
The transportation sector is responsible for about 28 percent of GHG emissions in Chile. Of the total GHG emissions from transportation, 45 percent are from cars and taxis, 22 percent from trucks, 13 percent from ships, 9 percent from airplanes, 10 percent from buses, and less than 1 percent from trains. Passenger transportation accounts for about two-thirds of transportation sector GHG emissions, while about one-third is from freight. Interurban transportation accounts for over half of total emissions. Chile’s policymakers at the national, sectoral, and local levels have largely ignored the environmental consequences of rapid development. A policy of “grow first, clean up later” was pursued until 1990, after which a few local environmental concerns did reach the policy agenda. Lack of interest in GHG emission reductions continues, stemming from growth-oriented thinking as well as the general understanding that Chile’s impact on the global climate is small compared to major industrial nations. With only 15 million people, each using on average less than one-sixth as much energy as each U.S. resident, and with large carbon dioxide (CO2) sinks due to natural regeneration in abandoned lands and forest plantations, Chile’s relative net contribution to global climate change is small. Concern for global climate change is not likely to motivate domestic policy action.
But other concerns, especially acute air pollution and worsening traffic congestion, are already motivating actions that will have a side effect of reducing growth in GHG emissions. Intensifying policy debates over motor vehicles will play a central role in determining Chile’s impact on climate change. Prospective international incentives, for example from the sale of emission credits under the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), would serve to support such domestic initiatives, with potentially large climate change benefits.
This report develops high (“business-as-usual”) and low emission scenarios for GHGs for the next two decades. The scenarios are based upon interviews with experts and policymakers, and extensive analysis of transportation and energy data gathered from a wide range of Chilean sources. Both scenarios are premised on strong continued economic growth (5.8 percent annual GDP growth). Under the business-as-usual scenario, it is assumed that no strong actions are taken to curb GHG emissions or restrain motorization. The result, over the next twenty years, is a doubling of energy consumption and GHG emissions by the transportation sector.
In an alternative low emission scenario, changes include policies to improve public transportation and introduce cleaner and more efficient vehicles. The net effect is a 42 percent increase in GHG emissions, significantly less than in the high scenario.
It is clear, given Chile’s strong economic growth, that overall national GHG emissions will increase. It is also clear that the potential exists to substantially restrain the growth in transportation emissions. This study illustrates the opportunities and benefits of laying a foundation now for a more fundamental strategy shift toward the low GHG emissions scenario. The national experience using market-based approaches to finance transportation sector infrastructure development could prove to be a useful model for implementing additional market-based initiatives that reduce GHG emissions, including international mechanisms. Indeed, policymakers and private sector partners in Chile may have the capacity to develop cost-sharing projects in which domestic goals – e.g., better transportation and local air quality – and international GHG goals can be attained.