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Insufficient numbers of transport operators are disclosing their emissions, slowing down the process of ‘greening’ the industry.
Less than 20% of global freight emissions are reported, the majority of those by airlines, while road freight is barely touched on, according a new white paper by Smart Freight Centre and CDP.
Freight transport accounts for about 8% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and 11% of logistics sites, such as warehouses and ports, are included. With freight demand expected to triple from 2015 to 2050, emissions will double if no action is taken.
“Progress to decarbonise our freight transport networks needs to accelerate if we are to meet our global climate goals,” says the paper. “Smart Freight Centre and CDP believe reporting data on GHG emissions is key to achieving these goals.”
The companies that disclose their emissions account for about 18% of the total, or 525 million tonnes, which includes some passenger emissions of companies that offer passenger and freight services.
“Relying on companies that purchase transportation as a service (‘shippers’) to disclose these as indirect emissions is not going to get us closer to transparency,” says the paper.
“While transparency exists for several of the companies individually, it becomes harder for transport buyers and investors that may want to make a comparison between companies, or understand the sources of emissions by mode or region. It is impossible to draw conclusions about freight transport as a whole: under-disclosure means there is a systemic lack of transparency.”
The aviation sector discloses the most emissions, partly because there are not as many companies when compared with, say, road freight, while there is also something of a spotlight on aviation, which accounts for “about 7% of global freight transport emissions, but has a relatively high GHG intensity; aviation emissions per tonne-km are several times that of road freight and exponentially higher than sea freight”.
Rail includes a mix of passenger and freight transport, while only eight companies disclose full emissions, all located in the US, Canada and Germany.
“The main reason for under-disclosure may be that many rail companies are often (partly) publicly owned, where disclosure is less common.”
Sea freight has made progress in the quality of its data, but disclosing companies sill only account for 13% of total sea freight emissions.
The sector is dominated by relatively few big players with the remainder lots of smaller players. The report also notes that the pressure from investors to be transparent is lower than in other sectors. Container shipping has been boosted by the Clean Cargo initiative, with which most of the large lines are involved and which now captures 85% of box ship emissions.
Road freight is the greatest laggard, with “little to no representation from the millions of small business that make up the majority of the trucking sector”.
“As a result, not even 1% of global road freight emissions is captured…”, says the paper.
Smart Freight Centre and CDP advised that the GLEC Declaration can help road freight companies simplify their disclosure, and also recommended partnering with national green freight programmes.
The report also recommends that “while absolute emissions values are necessary, for many companies, carbon intensity values, eg CO2 e per tonne-kg, may also be useful for tracking transport emissions”.
It added that “well-to-tank emissions from transportation fuels was inconsistent and unclear. This will become more problematic as companies turn to alternative fuels like biofuels or hydrogen, where emissions shift from combustion to supply chain emissions”.
The white paper concludes that disclosure is only the first step.
“By encouraging companies to develop a sustainable logistics roadmap or strategy, they can tackle all steps: calculate & disclose; set targets; implement solutions to reduce emissions; and collaborate with suppliers and other stakeholders. Companies in their value chain that aren’t taking necessary steps forward (in disclosure and quantifiable action) could be replaced by competitors that are.
“We are confident that improved transparency in freight transport emissions, from both transport providers and buyers, is the key to reducing global freight emissions.”
You can read the full report here.