Transport emissions: how each type of transport compares

Transport is Australia's second-biggest greenhouse gas emitter. Australia’s transport emissions are divided into four types: road, aviation, maritime (aka navigation), and railways.


'Road' is the biggest category in transport emissions, by far.

Cars and Light Vehicles are the biggest source of transport emissions because of their widespread use for personal transportation and reliance on petrol and diesel fuels.

They dominate Australia's transport emissions due to high personal vehicle ownership rates and a preference for larger, less fuel-efficient vehicles, such as SUVs and utes.

Electric Vehicles (EVs) are a crucial part of reducing Australia's transport emissions, with government incentives and growing public interest driving adoption, though the overall impact is currently small but expected to grow as the market matures and the electricity grid becomes greener.

Trucks and Heavy Freight play a critical role in Australia's emissions profile, as the country relies heavily on road freight to move goods across its vast distances, contributing significantly to greenhouse gas emissions.


Has a high emissions intensity per kilometre travelled, especially for domestic flights, due to the significant amount of fuel burned during takeoff and cruising.

It’s particularly important in Australia due to the country's size and reliance on domestic flights to connect distant cities and regions, making it a notable contributor to transport-related emissions.

Maritime Shipping

Shipping is a significant contributor to global emissions due to the scale of international trade and the reliance on fossil fuels for propulsion. It does however have lower emissions per tonne of cargo moved compared to road or air transport, making it more efficient for bulk goods.


Rail is generally more energy-efficient and emits fewer greenhouse gases per tonne-kilometre of freight or per passenger-kilometre than road transport. This efficiency is due to trains' ability to move large volumes of goods or numbers of passengers with relatively less energy and lower emissions.

Australia relies heavily on freight rail for transporting commodities such as coal, iron ore, and agricultural products. Long-distance passenger services are less common.

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