Curbing transport emissions is crucial to curbing the climate crisis

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released its latest report on climate change, and the sobering results show the world is running out of time to avert a climate catastrophe. One of the report’s key findings confirmed that global emissions would need to peak within the next three years to limit global warming to the Paris Agreement target of 1.5 degrees Celsius or below. This is a daunting task and there is literally no time to wait.

According to the report, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from transport could rise faster than any other industrial sector by 2050 without aggressive and sustained mitigation measures of climate change.

Reducing transport emissions is highly complex

Due to its almost complete dependence on fossil fuels, the transport sector is responsible for almost a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the IPCC. And the United Nations notes that emissions from the industry have more than doubled since 1970, with on-road vehicles accounting for about 80% of the increase. To paint a clearer picture, let’s look at some facts from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Everything to do with the supply chain:

Transportation accounts for 29% of total greenhouse gas emissions in the US (2019)

· Domestic freight (trucks, railroad cars, commercial aircraft, and ships and other boats) accounts for about 38% of total US transportation emissions

· Air freight emits 10 to 50 times more CO2 than sea freight

According to the International Transport Forum, without urgent action, transport’s share of global emissions could rise from 29% to 40% by 2030. And as transport demand continues to grow in the coming decades, emissions could increase by 60% by 2050. Meanwhile, the World Bank reports that global passenger traffic is expected to grow by 50% between 2015 and 2030, and global cargo volume could increase by as much as 70%. These potential consequences would severely limit our collective ability to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius or below. The problem is further complicated by the fact that 92% of transport relies on oil, making it particularly difficult to decarbonize.

Consumer demand leads to increased emissions in supply chains

A significant part of the current transport demand comes from developing countries. According to the World Bank, emissions from transport are growing much faster than GDP growth in many developing countries. Between 1990 and 2018, these emissions grew six times faster than GDP in Nepal and twice as fast in Nigeria, Iran, Croatia and Guatemala.

Emissions also depend on the mode of transport, and the mode of transport is highly dependent on the products and goods being transported through global supply chains. For example, air transport is the most polluting in terms of CO2 production per unit of goods transported. Trucking is the second worst, with rail being more energy efficient (less than 50% emissions compared to trucking) and sea transport being best (less than 20% of trucks). In fact, the rule of thumb is slow = low, as the main reason for using air over other modes is speed. This “need for speed” is driven by three main factors: potential product spoilage; weak planning and forecasting (driving the need to expedite deliveries); and increased consumer expectations and demands (“next day is better than two days”).

Proposed solutions to drastically reduce emissions

Several global mandates and initiatives are currently being developed and implemented that aim to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions – such as the creation of the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB), which will consolidate the currently existing voluntary guidance to enable companies to act globally with consistency and clarity to optimize operations for sustainability. In addition, the United Nations launched the Race to Zero campaign to encourage businesses, cities, regions, financial and educational institutions to halve global emissions by 2030.

Meanwhile, the EPA has developed several programs focused on reducing emissions in the transportation sector. The EPA and the Department of Transportation have partnered to set emissions and fuel economy standards for the top emitters in the transportation sector, including passenger cars, light trucks and heavy trucks. The standards set ambitious goals, including:

Reducing six billion tonnes of lifetime emissions from cars and trucks sold in the 2012-2025 model years

· Almost doubling the fuel efficiency of these vehicles

· Reduced CO2 emissions by approximately 270 million tonnes over the lifetime of heavy-duty vehicles built under the program

· Reducing the United States’ dependency on oil

Finally, today there are technologies that help companies monitor the emissions caused by their transportation operations, and these technologies are also able to recommend actions that companies can take to reduce emissions – such as reducing emissions. B. Identifying more efficient routes for their vehicle fleets.

No time to wait

Efficient transport is a key factor in the health of any economy, and based on the latest IPCC report, one of the most urgent parts of this equation is reducing the transport sector’s impact on emissions and the environment. The challenges are significant, but with the global mandates that are beginning to take hold – combined with the technologies available today – businesses and governments can help make tangible progress. Curbing climate change is one of humanity’s most pressing priorities today, and the time to act is now.

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