All Aboard the Net-Zero Express: Examining the Effectiveness of China’s High-Speed Rail for Decarbonizing the Transportation Industry
Keywords:High Speed Rail (HSR), Environmental Impact, China, Net-Zero, Transportation Decarbonization
This work reviews the development of High-Speed Rail (HSR) in China from multiple energy perspectives and discusses its implications with regards to reaching net-zero within the country’s transportation sector. This paper finds that HSR contributes to several research-backed environmental benefits, such as reductions in PM2.5 concentrations and other pollutants in both a local and nation-wide scale. In addition, HSR provides greater connectivity across the country, facilitates quick movement between the growing urban population centers, and diverts passengers from taking more polluting types of transportation, such as airplanes. However, the operation of HSR lines can have large environmental effects when considering the project full life cycle (such as construction and maintenance) and scopes two and three emissions (such as the production of the electricity powering these trains, mostly coal). Moreover, when compared to conventional electric rail, HSR pollutes more, due to the non-trivial association between energy and speed. Lastly, the over construction of passenger HSR has also disregarded the development of freight rail, shifting the transport of cargo to other more polluting yet less expensive modes, like trucking. This work concludes by recommending a series of points that the Chinese government, policy makers and transportation planners could implement in order to use HSR more effectively as a tool for decarbonizing the transportation industry in the country.
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Copyright (c) 2022 Andy Eskenazi
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