Decarbonisation in Transport and Warehousing

Technological and behavioural opportunities

Term Paper, 2012

13 Pages, Grade: A


Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations

List of Figures

1 Introduction

2 Decarbonisation Strategies in Logistics
2.1 Freight Transport
2.1.1 Technological Opportunities
2.1.2 Behavioural Opportunities
2.2 Warehousing
2.2.1 Technological Opportunities
2.2.2 Behavioural Opportunities

3 Discussion and Conclusion

List of references

List of Abbreviations

illustration not visible in this excerpt

List of Figures

Figure 1: GHG Emissions per Logistics and Transport Activity

Figure 2: Framework for Analysing Opportunities for CO2 Reduction

Figure 3: Energy Use Split of an average sized warehouse (15,000 m²)

1 Introduction

The debate of climate change is occupying many parties not only in environmental terms and it has gained importance in the last decade. Although the existence of climate change and particularly a corresponding human responsibility has advocates and opponents, it is obvious that climate change will be a serious issue for everyone if it impacts our nature as predicted (IPCC, 2007a). Hence, institutions such as the IPPC, UNEP, WMO or UNFCCC were introduced in order to guide governments and principally everyone in order to assess and to mitigate climate change. The UNFCCC’s ultimate aim, for instance, is to stabilize the concentration of greenhouse gases ‘at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system’ (United Nations, 1992: 9). However, this ultimate aim relies on many-sided sub-ordinate targets. One of these targets is to reduce carbon emissions in the logistics sector (McKinnon et al., 2010).

In the following chapter 2, opportunities for technological and behavioural changes in order to cut carbon emissions are presented for the logistical activities freight transport (main focus is on road transport) and warehousing. In chapter 3, an evaluation of the question which set of changes is likely to have greater influence is given together with a final conclusion.

2 Decarbonisation Strategies in Logistics

At least since the increasing importance of climate change, companies have to be aware of possible effects on their business. ‘Climate change is likely to become a major business driver over the next few decades as companies come under intense pressure to decarbonise their activities’ (McKinnon, 2010: 1). Hence, the main question is not whether companies are willing to decarbonise their activities but how they can implement their decarbonisation strategies into their business.

The other side of the coin is, however, that logistics activities derive from a primary demand for products and services (Cole, 2005). Consequently, companies offering logistics activities may not always have a lock on decarbonisation. To illustrate this point one need only refer to an exemplified case in which a customer demands a fast transportation leading to an airfreight shipment. Although a sea freight shipment would save relative carbon emissions, the logistics company would need to fulfil the customer’s requirement if it did not want to dissatisfy the customer. Thus, decarbonisation might also be a question of weak or strong sustainability (Whitelegg, 1995), i.e. the trade-off of environmental against social or economic objectives or ‘the imposition of environmental controls regardless of their economic and social consequences’ (McKinnon et al., 2010: 342).

Nevertheless, the amount of CO2 emissions is expected to grow as more carbon-intensive modes of transport gain greater proportions within the modal split (IPCC, 2007b). Hence, in order to fulfil the aim of stabilising carbon emissions, companies have to search and develop opportunities to reduce such emissions.

2.1 Freight Transport

Freight transport is a carbon-intensive sector. ‘In 2004, transport was responsible for 23% of world energy-related GHG emissions with about three quarters coming from road vehicles’ (IPCC, 2007b: 325). Additionally, the demand for freight transport is expected to grow robustly in the next decades (IPCC, 2007b; Sbihi and Eglese, 2007; Woodburn et al., 2008). Figure 1 also illustrates that freight transport including different modes accounts for the majority of carbon emissions within the logistics sector. Hence, it can be estimated that the biggest potential for CO2 reduction is carried there.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 1 : GHG Emissions per Logistics and Transport Activity

Source: Dey, LaGuardia and Srinivasan (2011)

Figure 2 gives a general overview about opportunities to reduce carbon emissions. Furthermore, determinants and corresponding outputs are illustrated.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 2 : Framework for Analysing Opportunities for CO2 Reduction

Source: McKinnon (2007)

However, the mentioned key ratios in figure 2 are not separated into technological and behavioural opportunities.

2.1.1 Technological Opportunities

An efficient way to reduce carbon emissions would be to undertake technological changes of vehicles. In this context, an increased carrying capacity is one opportunity (McKinnon et al., 2010). This can either be done in terms of weight reduction or volume augmentation. The advantage of higher carrying capacity is, on the one hand, a greater payload of vehicles. Consequently, fewer vehicles would be needed for the same amount of cargo transported and hence, a reduction in CO2, expressed on a load-kilometres per litre basis, can be realized. The IPCC (2007b) and The Carbon Trust (2012) also identify reduction of loads as one opportunity for lower carbon emissions. On the other hand, McKinnon et al. (2010) state that increasing the carrying capacity reduce the fuel efficiency, expressed on a vehicle-kilometres per litre basis, although this expression is declared as less important.

However, these figures can also be improved by increasing energy efficiency, which is a second way to reduce carbon emissions (IPCC, 2007b; McKinnon et al., 2010). In this context, one has to distinguish between behavioural and technological actions to increase energy efficiency. Regarding technological actions, improving engine and exhaust systems are a main opportunity (McKinnon et al., 2010). In this connection, Baker et al. (2009) and The Carbon Trust (2012) present further examples. Baker et al. (2009: 24) classify the technological improvements into the groups ‘vehicles’, ‘powertrains’ and ‘fuel’. Improvements for vehicles consist of advanced aerodynamics, i.e. customisation of the vehicle’s chassis as well as advanced rolling resistance, i.e. use of special tyres. Adjustments such as aerodynamic trailers, trailer fairings or spray reduction mud flaps enable a CO2 benefit that is estimated to be around 13.6% to 20% (Baker et al., 2009). Power train (drive train) technologies can also serve to reduce carbon emissions (IPCC, 2007b). In this context, Baker et al. (2009) identify combustion systems, friction reduction methods, engine accessories and gas exchange methods as key themes. Furthermore, they classify further drive train technologies such as waste heat recovery, alternative power trains (electric and cell vehicles), hybrid technology and transmission modifications as potential changes. Each group of modification has different saving potential (Baker et al., 2009).

The third category of Baker et al. (2009), also supported by others (IPCC, 2007b; Dey, LaGuardia and Srinivasan, 2011), is the change to less carbon intensive fuels such as BTL or HVO fuel. These fuels can save a huge amount of carbon emissions up to 90% on a WTW basis (Baker et al., 2009). Alternative fuels or biofuels also become increasingly important in the near future (Dey, LaGuardia and Srinivasan, 2011). McKinnon et al. (2010) and the World Economic Forum (2009) also identify clean vehicle technologies as a major part of technological opportunities. However, research must be conducted before these fuels become marketable (Baker et al., 2009).

To sum up one cannot deny that in the near future (up to 2020) technological improvements are an effective way to reduce carbon emissions if they can get marketable.

2.1.2 Behavioural Opportunities

Behaviour with respect to decarbonisation is likely to be even more important in the short term than technology. In order to gain CO2 reductions, nothing needs to be invented but only behaviour has to be adapted. As already mentioned in the beginning of this chapter, decarbonisation is a question of strong or weak sustainability, too (McKinnon et al., 2010). Hence, the general willing to save carbon emissions must be existent.

Baker et al. (2009) identify changing driver behaviour as one key element to reduce carbon emissions. With help of corresponding trainings, drivers should be cultivated in order to drive more economical. In this context, companies can motivate their drivers by providing awards for efficient driving (McKinnon et al., 2010). Baker et al. (2009) number the potential GHG savings with 10% on average. On the other hand, it is important to retrain drivers continuously as effectiveness of economical driving is expected to fall off after a period of time.

The World Economic Forum (2009) also identified several behavioural saving options. Slowing down the movements of supply chains is one option with high saving potential. The biggest opportunity can be realized by slowing down ship movements because of ‘the squared relationship between speed and emissions’ (World Economic Forum, 2009: 17). But also road vehicle speed reductions and load fill improvements are efficient ways to decarbonise the supply chain.

Another possibility is the optimisation of networks (Sbihi and Eglese, 2007; World Economic Forum, 2009). Two big problems concerning networks are the relatively big proportion of movements running empty (24% of vehicle-kilometres in the EU) and the suboptimal utilisation of the vehicles’ gross weights (57% of maximum gross weight on average) (World Economic Forum, 2009). Network optimisations are not only applicable to road transport. For example, aviation can also profit from improved operational efficiency by optimising routes, increasing utilisation or improving traffic management.

Modal switches are also an opportunity for CO2 reductions. If companies want to reduce their carbon emissions, they will have to try to switch from carbon-intensive modes of transport to less carbon-intensive ones. The crucial aspect is the amount of emissions per tonne-kilometre (World Economic Forum, 2009). Therefore, useful changes are, for example, changes from intercontinental air to sea freight, short distance airfreight to road freight or long distance road transport to rail or inland waterway transports (World Economic Forum, 2009).


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Decarbonisation in Transport and Warehousing
Technological and behavioural opportunities
Heriot-Watt University Edinburgh
Green Logistics
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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Note A = 70
Green Logistics, Grüne Logistik, Decarbonisation, transport, warehousing
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Christian Krogmann (Author), 2012, Decarbonisation in Transport and Warehousing, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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