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CO2 Emissions from Freight Transport in the UK
This study was the first attempt to carbon footprint freight transport operations in the UK on a cross-modal basis. It was undertaken for the Commission on Integrated Transport as part of its major review of ‘Transport and Climate Change’. The report begins with a discussion of methodological issues and then presents estimates of CO2 emissions for all the main freight transport modes: heavy goods vehicles, vans, rail, waterborne transport, air and pipelines. It was estimated that domestic freight transport in the UK generated 33.7 million tonnes of CO2 in 2004, roughly 21% of total emissions from the transport sector and 6% of emissions from the economy as a whole. Road transport accounted for 92% of these freight-related CO2 emissions. The movement of freight in vans, which represented only around of 35% of all van-kms, was responsible for 13% of total freight emissions.
The study also examined the potential for reducing CO2 emissions from the UK freight transport system, using an analytical framework built on seven key parameters, including the average length of haul, the proportion of empty running and fuel efficiency. Between 1990 and 2004 trends in most of these parameters had moved in a direction, reducing the average carbon-intensity per tonne of freight moved. The study found that there was significant potential to reduce this carbon-intensity further. Two scenarios are constructed to illustrate how changes in the key parameter collectively impacted on total emissions from the freight sector. Within a baseline ‘steady-state’ scenario, freight-related emissions would rise by 2% between 2004 and 2015, while in the ‘aspirational’ scenario these emissions would fall by around 28%.
Full report can be downloaded from the UK government archives.
This research was updated in 2017, reviewing changes in the level of CO2 emissions from UK freight transport up to 2016. The results of this analysis are discussed in chapter 8 of my book on Decarbonizing Logistics.
A short article summarising these updated results was published in Logistics and Transport Focus in 2019.
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