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Question: What initiatives, policies and technologies can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector?
Submit Proposals:
Rules: All entrants must agree to the Contest rules and Terms of Use
Deadline: Sunday, Sep 10, 2017 at 18:00:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time
Judging Criteria & Prizes: See below.



The movement of people and goods is critical for the functioning of economies. Transportation allows access to basic necessities such as places of employment, health-care, education, government, and other daily services. Tourism also remains a growing international market, also heavily relied upon by many low-income countries. In fact, transportation has become an enabler of the global, connected economy. However, that increase in activity has caused transportation energy demand to rise, and due to this sector’s oil dependence, GHG emissions to grow. GHG emissions from transportation are growing at the highest rate among those from all end-use sectors.

The transportation sector includes the movement of people and goods by cars, buses, trucks, trains, ships, airplanes, and other modes, including non-motorized vehicles. Each of these modes connects spatially dispersed locations, and the transportation sector  interacts with many disciplines of the CoLab, including materials, energy supply, industry, waste management, agriculture and forestry, etc. An efficient transportation system is critical for the functioning of interconnected economic, social, and political systems.

With the Paris COP21 Agreement and its commitment to limit temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius and make efforts toward 1.5, the transport sector, in which some of the rapid gains can be made, will be central. Innovations within the transportation sector, including strategies, policies, investments, and infrastructure within urban, freight, and passenger transport, will be imperative to meeting this goal. Sustainable transport is also an essential component in sustainable development strategies that relates directly to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 9 (infrastructure, Industrialization, and innovation) and SDG 11 (cities).

The majority of GHGs from transportation are CO2 emissions resulting from the combustion of petroleum products, like gasoline, in internal combustion engines. The largest sources of transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions result from road transport emissions. Passenger cars and light-duty trucks, including sport utility vehicles, pickup trucks, and minivans, account for over half of the emissions within this category. With 75 percent of the infrastructure that will exist in 2050 yet to be built, actions taken right now will shape urbanization patterns and quality of life for decades (The World Bank, 2015).

Key Issues

Recent developments in information technologies, smart cities/ports/airports, IoT, self-driving vehicles, robotics, increased vehicle automation, and growing electrification of vehicle drivetrains together with a targeted action in the fields of public transportation, city planning,  and the emergence of the sharing economy in general and shared mobility services in particular may generate a disruptive change in the way we travel and transport goods. In addition, there are signs of  change in societal values and travel behavior. The need for GHG and specifically CO2 abatement and improved fuel efficiency in the transport sector is evident.

Proposals are welcomed on any topic, technical or policy measure, scientific study, that may contribute to the struggle of combating the transport sector’s contribution to climate change.

Among the areas with potential to mitigate GHG emissions are especially (for the list see - with adaptations):

Also, the following considerations may serve as food for thought:

A Note about Technology & Policy Solutions

Actions to address GHG emissions involve a mix of social and physical activities. For instance, proposals for the transportation sector could, for example,  consider the following actions:

  1. Increasing drivetrain efficiency or reducing losses, such as driving resistance (air drag and rolling resistance).
  2. Switching from gasoline or diesel to alternative, low-carbon fuels.
  3. Encouraging consumers to buy less, smaller, or more lightweight vehicles.
  4. Encouraging vehicle manufacturers to diversify their product lines.
  5. Reducing travel by encouraging behavioral changes, such as carpooling or mode-shifts.

Proposals on technological actions might include the development and deployment of entirely new transport technologies that will release either fewer emissions per passenger-kilometers or freight tonne-kilometer, or drastically reduce emissions from existing transport modes. Other approaches — including telecommuting — might involve avoiding transport activity altogether or provide users with more information to make informed choices on their mobility.

Proposals on policy actions might include land-use, transport planning, or economic incentives that also impact transport activity and its emissions. The distances people must travel to access work and other services are determined by the locations of their residences, businesses, schools, and other services. These travel options are also affected by geography and the location of where roads and public transit facilities are built (or not built). The two are both intimately related to issues of land use and transportation planning and thus have direct impacts on overall GHG emissions, particularly in urban areas. Proposals that aim to increase mobility in concert with creating greater access are strongly encouraged.

Judging Criteria

Judges will be asked to evaluate proposals on the following criteria:

Winning proposals will be especially strong in at least one of the first three dimensions, and also well presented.

Judges will evaluate proposals, and deliberate as a group to select the Semi-Finalists, Finalists, Winners, and possibly other awardee(s) at their discretion.  Judgments of desirability are also made in the final stage of the contest, by the Climate CoLab community through popular vote, and by the Judges through their selection of the Judges' Choice winner(s).


Top proposals in each contest will be awarded...

Judges’ Choice Award -- Two proposals* will be selected by the Judges to receive the Judges' Choice-- one project, and one practice.

Popular Choice Award – Received the most votes during the public voting period.

The Judges’ Choice Award and Popular Choice Award Winners will be invited to MIT (see prior Climate CoLab Conferences), join the Climate CoLab winners’ alumni, and be eligible for the $10,000 Grand Prize—to be selected from among the winners across contests.

All award Winners and Finalists will receive wide recognition and platform visibility from MIT Climate CoLab. Climate CoLab or its collaborators may offer additional awards or recognition at their discretion.

* Judges’ Choice Award(s) are allocated at the Judging panel’s discretion. In rare cases, the Judges may choose not to select awardees.

Resources for Proposal Authors