Economic, social and environmental consequences of the global crisis of sustainability are hindering growth and development, particularly in developing countries. In response to the awareness of a changing climate, and ratified commitments to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and improve sustainability, South Africa has embraced decarbonising the transport sector, the second highest emitter of GHG emissions in the country. Beyond environmental sustainability, the high costs of importing crude oil or producing and refining these fuels, growing congestion and long commuting hours, means reforming the transport sector is a priority. Attaining sustainable transport systems requires a modal shift towards environmentally-compatible, energy-efficient and low-carbon vehicles, the promotion of public transport and non-motorised transport, as well as spatial planning to reduce travel distances for commuters.
While spatial planning and modal shifts present longer-term opportunities for transformation, this policy brief focuses on improving vehicle efficiencies, a suitable complementary option for transitioning to sustainable transport systems in the short term. The South African government should provide the necessary fiscal certainty and support to facilitate the uptake of gas-based and electric vehicles. These present low-carbon alternatives, to enhance energy efficiency and improve vehicle technologies, reduce reliance on imported crude oil and decrease harmful emissions while creating and supporting local industry in the process.