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Decarbonising China’s Transport Sector – Workshop on Developing Road Transport Carbon Emission Models for Chinese Cities

Decarbonising transport is an essential prerequisite to achieving China’s ambitious dual carbon goals of peaking carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2060. With transport emissions representing an increasingly large share of carbon and other pollutant emissions in cities, coupled with China’s growing rate of urbanisation, cities play a key role in achieving decarbonisation in the transport sector. In order to develop sustainable transport systems and reduce GHG emissions, planners and policymakers need to be able to choose the most effective strategies for the future and to understand the impacts of past actions. Robust analysis methodologies, tools, and data are essential to inform policy makers and strengthen MRV processes in transport planning.

To support Chinese cities by engaging experts and decisionmakers at municipal and provincial levels in introducing best practices from Europe and China in city-level transport emissions model development and applications, a workshop on Decarbonising China’s Transport Sector was held online on 15th August, 2022. This workshop explored the current challenges and opportunities for the establishment of transport emission models and facilitating peer-to-peer learning among Chinese cities/provinces, with a focus on introducing modelling methodologies for urban transport emissions in Chinese cities.

Organised by the Sino-German Cooperation on Low Carbon Transport (CLCT) and the NDC Transport Initiative for Asia (NDC-TIA) projects of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the Shenzhen Urban Transport Planning Center (SUTPC), the workshop featured contributions on emission modelling from the World Resources Institute (WRI), INFRAS, and the Beijing Transport Institute (BTI). Over 50 participants representing over 20 Chinese cities participated in the event.

Ms Xue Lulu of WRI gave a detailed overview of emission calculation methodologies used in different countries, particularly highlighting differences between the ‘top-down’ approach, which examines fuel consumption data at a larger regional scale, and the ‘bottom-up’ approach examining local data including on vehicle mileage and fuel composition at a smaller scale. Ms Xue outlined the limitations of both approaches, each operating within a certain margin of error, thus illustrating the need for cross-referencing between various methods and, most crucially, the importance of ongoing and future developments in statistics and data availability in China.

The central component of the workshop was an introductory training on HBEFA (Handbook Emission Factors for Road Transport) – a Microsoft Access-based emission factor database application for emission modelling – and its localisation and application in China in form of the ‘China Road Transport Emission Model’ (CRTEM) or ‘HBEFA China.’ The training was provided by Dr Benedikt Notter of INFRAS, a Swiss research institute that developed and continues to update HBEFA. Dr Notter outlined the applications for emission modelling with HBEFA in transport planning and forecasting policy impacts, as well as in environmental impact assessments and GHG reporting. Dr Notter then focused specifically on HBEFA China, which was jointly developed between GIZ, INFRAS, and SUTPC in 2019 (following updates to the European HBEFA).

Figure 1 – HBEFA and other road emission models
Figure 2 – Development of GHG emissions factors for HBEFA China

HBEFA China is a model for ‘bottom-up’ emissions calculations for road transport localised to a Chinese urban context that allows estimating the emission impact of different types of policies, as HBEFA does in Europe. During the training, Dr Notter highlighted the prerequisites in terms of data and factor input for HBEFA China, such data on traffic activity and vehicle stock, and provided a live demonstration of the application.

Relating Shenzhen’s experience with HBEFA, Mr Qiu Jiandong of SUTPC gave insights into the city’s successful establishment of its transport emission model as a forerunner in data management among cities in China. In cooperation with GIZ and INFRAS, SUTPC helped localise HBEFA for China and develop its integrated emission model adapted to local conditions. Mr Qiu recounted the rigorous methods for data collection and management used in developing HBEFA China, as well as for establishing and maintaining Shenzhen’s carbon emission monitoring platform, and concluded by highlighting how data-driven policymaking shapes Shenzhen’s emission reduction efforts and its progress towards China’s dual carbon goals.

Figure 3 – Equipping vehicles for data collection through GPS in Shenzhen
Figure 4 – HBEFA China training in Shenzhen, 2019

BTI has also been developing a statistical and monitoring system for energy saving and transport emission reduction in Beijing. Presenting during the workshop, Ms Zhou Yufang of BTI described the development of the system since 2012 and how it serves Beijing’s carbon neutral planning for the transport sector, the city’s carbon market and pollutant management policies, as well as carbon emission reduction incentives. Combining the ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ approaches, BTI has established high-precision, high-frequency data sets that integrate fuel, energy consumption, and the emissions of carbon and other pollutants. The core of the technology is a multi-level transportation carbon emission model, underpinned by a data exchange and sharing mechanism with multiple parties – an important step toward improving data availability and management.

Figure 5 – Live survey with participants of the workshop on key aspects of their cities’ transport emission calculation.

The representatives of over 20 Chinese cities (including from local transport authorities and key local research institutes) also engaged in a live discussion on such questions as what the largest sources of emissions are in their cities, how cross-boundary transport should be addressed in estimating local emissions, and what the most common challenges are when calculating emissions. Common challenges derived from the survey included in particular data availability, validation, ways to manage real-time data, or solving the issue of cross-boundary travel. Dr Zhou of BTI highlighted their ongoing research into the future urban layout of Beijing as an important baselines for further transport behaviour projections. Reflecting on Shenzhen’s commitment to promoting its emission modelling approach to other cities, Mr Qiu also emphasised the need to ensure that cities obtain sufficient and unified data to apply the same model in different urban contexts. Responding to which approach should be applied in different cities with discrepancies in data sources, Dr Notter concluded: “The best answer is to use every data source available. Each will bring new insight, and an emission model will bring them together.”

More resources:

HBEFA China Report

Instructional videos HBEFA
– Installation:

– Overview:

– Emission factor queries:

– Emission model runs:

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