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Rising demand for freight transportation increases the need for companies in the industry to emissions data.

Ahead of the Action Summit, California Governor Jerry Brown, UN Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa and Mahindra Group CEO Anand Mahindra set a challenge to industry: they want enterprises to join the 400+ companies already disclosing emissions by the September Summit. And the logistics is a high-priority target for these efforts.

Disclosing environmental and social impacts is a core part of most companies’ Corporate Social Responsibility programs. Disclosing emissions is first step to enable companies to set targets to track commitments on climate, air pollution, labor ethics, and so on.

However, sharing targets exposes companies to public scrutiny – are the targets too ambitious and companies risk falling short? Or are targets too conservative, leaving companies open to criticism for not working hard enough to reach climate goals.

The Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi), led by WWF, CDP, World Resources Institute and UN Global Compact, has been taking the guesswork out of climate targets, sector by sector. The latest sector in its proverbial crosshairs: transportation and logistics, for good reason.

Demand for freight transport is expected to triple by ,[1] which is, incidentally, the so-called climate tipping point – the point of no return for keeping global temperature below 2 degrees from pre-industrial levels. Balancing growing demand for freight transport and global greenhouse gas reduction goals is a challenging act, and one that is increasingly being left to the industry to address (see “Logistics Emissions Move into the Spotlight” here).

Here’s where the SBTi comes in: projections for growth in demand are aligned with the International Agency’s (IEA) predictions for new technologies and techniques to improve efficiency, to create a “decarbonization pathway” for the sector as a whole.  Companies can input their carbon emissions into the tool, and see where their company needs to be by 2050.

An important foundation of the approach is that decarbonization pathways are realistic. That means that the new technologies either are ready for implementation today or will be ready soon. Efficiency metrics are well-known techniques like efficient driving, routing and procurement. There are no “pie in the sky” ideas here – just real, actionable solutions.

The time is now to take up Governor Jerry Brown’s challenge and calculate, disclose and set targets on logistics emissions. A global methodology for calculating multi-modal logistics emissions is in place, the Smart Freight Centre’s Global Logistics Emissions Council Framework, and the pathways for disclosure and reduction are clear.

To learn more and to get involved, join WWF, Smart Freight Centre and MIT Sustainable Supply Chains Manager Suzanne Greene for a free webinar on the transport SBTi on June 27th – more information is available here.

 

[1] ITF. International Transport Forum Transport Outlook 2017. (2017).

This article was written by Suzanne Greene (segreene@mit.edu).  

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