The world's largest solar-powered boat, Turanor PlanetSolar, arrives in Paris, France, docking along the river Seine, 10 September 2013. The catamaran powered exclusively by solar energy, completed the first solar-powered trip around the world on 4 May 2012, after travelling over 60,000 km (37,282 miles) in 584 days.

Transport is not only a fundamental driver of economic activity, it is a major sector in its own right. But while transport has suffered from the economic crisis, as echoed in downturns in trade and activity generally, it could be a source of recovery too. We asked José Viegas, head of International Transport Forum, to explain. 

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Cities that want healthier populations should get them moving. In the US, where urban sprawl and personal motorised vehicle are prevalent, walking makes up only 8.6% of all trips, by far the lowest proportion in our chart.

“The Red Arrow”, a poem by Paul Durcan, an Irish poet, opens with the line “In the history of transport–is there any other?” Anyone looking at innovation in transport would do well to consider this line. Is history really the history of transport, more than, say, the history of wars and kings, as some would have it? It is a tempting proposition.

On 7 April 2010, a light aircraft with an unusually wide wingspan took off from a small airfield in the Swiss canton of Vaud. During its one-and-a-half hour flight it reached an altitude of 1,200 metres and went through its paces of turns, approaches and landing. Unlike in the legend of Icarus, the sun did not melt this plane’s wings, but actually powered them. This was one of the world’s first solar-powered flights, and the OECD Observer caught up with one of the creators and pilots of the Solar Impulse HBSIA aircraft, Bertrand Piccard.

If the transport sector is to make deep cuts in carbon emissions, the carbonintensity of travel must be reduced. For that, policy analysis has to be based on how world markets actually function, and that means understanding what consumers look for when deciding to buy a vehicle, and what drives manufacturers’ decisions too.

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Think back to the oil shocks of 1973—or even 2008: the more it costs at the petrol station, the less people are inclined to use their cars. It’s simple intuition, and many OECD governments are now using fuel taxes, in part to discourage the use of personal vehicles in favour of more environmentally friendly transport choices. A 2008 survey of households in 10 OECD countries reveals that cars are still the most popular means of getting around. The survey also explores the factors influencing how we choose to travel. Results are based on more than 10,000 responses.

As we are now beginning to see the signs of a fragile recovery, the 2010 Forum will emphasise the role that innovation must play in the future of the transport sector. Decision-makers, experts and practitioners from all modes will consider the transport systems of tomorrow, the barriers that must be overcome to get there, and the innovative technologies, policies and collaborations needed for success.

The Maghreb coastal corridor links Morocco to Egypt by road and from there connects to the Arab countries of the Mashreq. Much of the 31,000 km of planned roads are in place. Part of a major road plan that some hope will one day link much of the African coastline, the corridor embodies a future of promise.

©David Rooney

As the UN called recently on the world’s governments in an “extraordinary emergency appeal” for some $500 million to avert a food crisis in poor countries, many people were placing some share of the blame squarely on strong demand for grains from the biofuel industry.

Das Auto, Das Ecodriving ©Sebastien Pirlet/Reuters

The urgency of reducing fuel consumption rates while transport moves towards massive development over the next two decades, notably among developing economies, is clear. Any weapon counts as part of the overall package. Enter “ecodriving”.

Extreme choice? Stanford University's solar car, 2005 ©Reuters/Stefano Paltera/Handout

Would adding US$1,500 to the price of a new car be enough to help halt climate change? That’s what US and EU experts broadly agree on as the average price tag for new technologies coming on stream to make cars more fuel-efficient and climate friendly. But what does that price tag entail?


If CO2 emissions from transport cause climate change, why not encourage more cycling? This is precisely what places like Brussels, Copenhagen, Vienna and Berlin are starting to do. One much talked about initiative is in Paris. As the home of cycling’s greatest race, the Tour de France, you would be forgiven for thinking the French always loved cycling. Yet until last year, cyclists and bicycle lanes were a rarity in the capital.

Watch that gradient ©Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach

On a single busy day in the summer of 2007, 3.2 million people took to the skies above Europe in 33,000 flights which covered a total distance of 34 million km. That’s 42 billion passenger kilometres generated in just one day of European air traffic movements.

Impressive though these numbers appear, they are in fact expected to double shortly after 2025, assuming that the demand forecasts hold true and that the capacity issues across the European air traffic system are solved.

Anu Vehviläinen ©Finnish government

Transport is a major contributor to CO2 emissions. But can policymakers make a difference? We asked Anu Vehviläinen, Finland’s minister for transport, and chair of the first International Transport Forum in Leipzig in May 2008.


Any serious attempt to deal with climate change must involve transport. Transport accounts for 13% of all world greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, though this figure takes into account CO2 sources other than fuel combustion, such as forestry, land-use and biomass burning. A look at CO2 emissions from fuel combustion only shows the transport sector accounts for about 23% worldwide and about 30% in the OECD area.

A clean launch ©Reuters/Nikola Solic

International shipping emits as much CO2 as some of the world's largest countries. What can be done?

©Reuters/Gregg Newton

With aviation growing in terms of the number of planes operating and passengers taking to the skies, the industry is engaged in an important and candid dialogue—how to continue to grow responsibly, while further reducing its impact on the global ecosystem

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