The logistics industry must achieve zero emissions. If we continue to burn the 4 billion tonnes of crude oil we go through every year, then all known oil deposits will be gone by 2050. But the question of what shape the industry takes after fossil fuels still lingers despite the answer being in everyone’s best interest.
Carbon emissions are destructive to the Earth, and the supply chain is partly accountable for releasing them. The global logistics industry contributes a combined 4% of the world’s carbon emissions a year, yet was not formally cited in the Paris Agreement (PA) on climate change. Instead, the PA tasked the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) and the IMO (International Maritime Organisation) to regulate in accordance with the 2°C by 2020 target.
So, what are the ICAO and IMO doing?
The ICAO proposes levies, emissions trading and offsetting with CORSIA (Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme). Airlines can implement the scheme according to their business’s needs. Over 80% of the international aviation community already intend to participate in CORSIA, which comes into action in 2020.
Whilst the IMO proposed an initial roadmap which runs from 2018 to 2023, after which a revised strategy is implemented. The plan includes mandatory data collection of fuel oil consumption, a global sulphur cap by 2020 and further GHG (Greenhouse Gases) studies.
Although these steps should be welcomed, carbon-emitting fuels are still being burnt. Alternative energy solutions must be found for the sake of environmental protection and international trade. Long-term alternatives must come to the forefront of the ICAO’s and IMO’s mind, not the short term observations they propose. Consequently, the private sector has become the driver for enduring green innovation.
The answer seems simple in some areas; electrification. We have hybrid and fully electric cars and trucks on our roads on a commercial scale and such technology can move into container handling equipment.
This is becoming the case with Hyster’s recent announcement of an electric container truck, capable of carrying 48-tonne loads. Though only in early stages of development, it’s a step in the right direction.
Ports have to lower their GHG emissions and swapping diesel vehicles is the place to start and despite Trump’s decision to exit the PA, some American ports continue to pursue zero emission promises. Los Angeles and Long Beach ports have aimed for this by 2035. The renovations include a fully automated electric gantry and new adjacent rail line to eliminate thousands of truck journeys thus eliminating emission.
Air freight is also becoming greener. The JKIA (Jomo Kenyatta International Airport) cargo facility recently began using renewable energy to power their cold stores, cutting the terminal’s energy bill by 33%. There is also space for swapping diesel engine vehicles for electric power in air terminals.
But the biggest long-term goal has to be zero emissions from vessels and aircraft.
For maritime travel, this end may be close. MOL’s fleet includes Emerald Ace, a hybrid car carrier using solar panels and lithium-ion batteries, the only operational ship of this kind. When in berth the ship uses its stored solar energy to power the electricity on board as opposed to a diesel generator. This is an exciting development albeit a small one as the vessel still uses its diesel engine in transit.
Although, expect a fully electric container cargo ship by late 2018. The chemical company YARA plans to launch YARA Birkeland, the zero emission vessel which will haul between their Norwegian production plant and the cities of Brevik and Larvik. This will replace 40000 truck journeys needed every year for the company’s haulage. Birkeland’s service will only be small voyages, exclusive to YARA but will act as a rehearsal for further electric nautical development. The industry shall eagerly observe the vessel and if it proves successful, we shall certainly witness a movement towards electrification.
Greener aviation is not as developed as the maritime sector but there is movement from passenger aircraft companies. EasyJet unveiled a hydrogen aircraft concept in early 2016. It uses the energy from the aircraft’s breaks and stores it in hydrogen cells. The cells will power the aircraft’s taxi to the runway and the electronics when grounded, estimating to save EasyJet up to £27 million in fuel. No information has emerged regarding tests since the concept was revealed.
On the other hand, the Dutch airline KLM has made a significant development as they started operating biofuel flights out of Los Angeles and Oslo in 2016. The biofuel is produced from plant oils and agricultural waste and has a 70% reduction of CO2 emissions compared to kerosene.
This may suggest biofuels are the best alternative for aviation because they are already operating and proving successful, but these flights are not completely running off biofuels. They use a ‘drop-in’ technique; a mixture of 50% biofuel and 50% conventional kerosene fuel, so the aircraft does not need to undertake modifications to accept the biofuel.
‘Drop in‘ fuel used on KLM biofuel flights:
These are important steps towards sustainability but as a whole, the industry has fallen behind. It is imperative to reduce carbon emissions yet we continue to burn away. But developing alternatives is a serious cost. Currently, biofuel is 3 times the price of kerosene and it was recently revealed that the Long Beach renovations will cost £1 billion. But it’s the private sector who are the driving forces behind better efficiencies and current financial pressures on logistics providers make research and development nearly impossible.
The ICAO and the IMO look to reduce emissions but fear investment. It has fallen on the brave few companies to invest heavy sums into new technology. But these high prices will fall once the supply chain realises its responsibility. Ports, liners, fuel companies and vehicle manufacturers, both sea and air alike, must make zero emission commitments to stimulate a competitive market and achieve long-term sustainability goals.
But we must also see the ICAO and IMO take up some of the slack. We, therefore, welcome the inauguration of the GIA (Global Industry Alliance). The 13 company alliance who will work with the IMO to develop and implement zero emission solutions right across the maritime industry.
We also advocate the CBP (Corporate Biofuel Programme) initiated by KLM to sustain and develop their biofuel operations. Once again it has been the private sector investment as the major contributors to this programme and a public/private bridge must be constructed with this programme, or similar synergies, to develop better efficiencies in aviation.
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