Logistics key to meeting government’s carbon reduction targets

Tunbridge Wells, UK: The British logistics sector is well positioned to play a full part in achieving the cuts in emissions needed to meet the government commitment to halve greenhouse gases by 2025, says the Freight Transport Association.

The association set up the Logistics Carbon Reduction Scheme earlier this year, with members committing to reduce the carbon intensity of their freight operations by 8% by 2015, compared with a 2010 baseline.

Simon Chapman, the FTA’s chief economist, said: “So far, transport has proved one of the most stubborn areas of carbon dioxide emissions to reduce, with other sectors of the economy having taken much of the strain as car traffic and commercial vehicle activity continued to grow.

“Over the last decade, through innovative practices linked to routing and scheduling of vehicles, the freight industry has managed to decouple HGV (heavy goods vehicle) activity from economic growth. To make inroads into the absolute level of carbon dioxide emissions produced, real-time use of these techniques will need to be combined with wider use of alternative fuelled vehicles, more freight moving by rail and a continued focus on fuel efficiency,” he says.

The desire for an absolute cut in emissions from freight must not be at the expense of freight supporting the competitiveness of the economy and serving consumers, he said.

The Logistics Carbon Reduction Scheme has attracted the support of 52 businesses operating some 48,000 commercial vehicles, ranging from major high street retailers and third party logistics providers to utility companies. Transport minister Mike Penning MP backs the scheme that he says will “deliver real progress toward the UK’s carbon reduction targets”.

The industry-led scheme, launched in July 2010, is a key part of the logistics industry’s response to meeting the challenge of climate change, says the association. Scheme members commit to regularly reporting their fuel use figures from which carbon dioxide emissions for the scheme are derived, together with a set of four activity and business-based “normalisers”. From this data, absolute levels of emissions and the relative improvement in emissions over time can be monitored.

“Climate change is one of the greatest transport policy challenges facing the government. For the logistics sector, many of the opportunities to reduce carbon dioxide emissions have the potential to be a win-win, with cost reduction going hand in hand with cutting fuel use,” says Chapman.

“However, what can be done at an individual operator level and by vehicle manufacturers can only get us so far down the path of contributing to the government’s targets.

“To go beyond the 8% carbon intensity reduction target by 2015 that scheme members have signed up to, government has a role to play. Increasing vehicle dimensions, reducing the relative cost of rail freight and encouraging trucks to deliver out of peak hours all have a carbon dioxide reduction payback, but are out of industry’s hands to deliver.”