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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Achieving Sustainable Transportation in Australia: A comparison of policies targeting greenhouse gas emissions in road passenger transport

Transport is Australia’s second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, with the road transport sector contributing up to 85% of total transport emission. With climate change and ‘peak oil’ risks highly uncertain, reducing the fuel consumption of road transportation is becoming a national priority for sustainable transport. This research uses backcasting to explore the scale of necessary changes for the road transport sector in achieving the national 2050 emission target of 80% below 2000 levels. For road passenger transport, which accounts for the majority of the emissions, the analysis suggests that major behavioural and technological changes will be required to deliver the significant emission reduction, with very substantial improvements in vehicle fuel efficiency being vital to meeting targets.
A matrix of policies are required to realise these significant changes. This study assembles a policy package from best world practices and policy literatures, which shows promise in reducing passenger road transport emissions. The dynamic effects of these polices are examined through a qualitative causal loop diagram, which highlights the importance of policy collaboration. The integration of public transport planning and service enhancements, together with distance based fiscal disincentives such as fuel tax, can combat the rebound effect of reduced driving cost created through vehicle emission standards. Educational and marketing strategies as well as cycling infrastructure improvements are also important in creating complimentary effects. These policies are further recommended in case studies of Sydney and Melbourne.

Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.