Transport red-lines as Australia’s carbon budget is spent years early

  • Australia’s Transport emissions for Q4/FY2018 were again the highest on record.
  • By 2030, will grow +29% on 2005 levels under current and proposed policies
  • Global freight transport volumes will triple by 2050

Tyranny of distance

For the third consecutive year, Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions are at record highs, driven largely by transport emissions and the continuing rapid rise in diesel used by trucks. Heavy-duty vehicles produce most of every city’s smog and toxic air pollution and road freight is the fastest growing greenhouse gas emitter on the planet.

Growing populations in Australia and globally are getting richer and living longer, driving unprecedented demand for global trade and freight transport. Climate change can’t be stopped without decarbonising transport, yet because it relies on oil for 92% of its energy, transport is particularly hard to decarbonise.

ITF Freight grow graph

Source:  International Transport Forum, Transport Outlook 2017

Action by freight operators will be vital to reducing transport emissions, and solutions are readily available, yet unlike trends in comparable countries Australia is making very weak progress in transport energy efficiency and fuel switching.

So how do we reconcile these trends with global agreements and targets to act on climate change, and reduce transport’s negative societal and environmental impacts to enable clean prosperity?


There’s been little urgency for transport operators to change. Lower diesel prices and replacing carbon pricing policy with voluntary incentives (Emissions Reduction Fund, Clean Energy Finance Corporation) coincided with waning freight customer interest in reducing their broader environmental footprints.

Percentage change in emissions by sector since 1990, Australia

NGGI June18

Source: Quarterly Update of Australia’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory: June 2018, Department of the Environment & Energy

Now, with Paris targets and UN Sustainable Development Goals directing action, businesses are publicising strategies to reduce carbon footprints. Customer expectations of their supply chain partners are fast-becoming the prime offensive weapon against negative transport impacts. To meet the below 2oC degrees scenario for freight transportation, systemic improvements are urgently required, so collaboration among shippers, logistics providers and carriers is crucial to decarbonise freight transport alongside the projected tripling in demand.

Shippers, those cargo-owning customers of freight transport businesses, are beginning to act. Pledges to improve Corporate Social Responsibility performance – through such disclosure programs as the Global Reporting Initiative, CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project), We Mean Business, Science-Based Targets Initiative and Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures – are driving multinational corporations to play their proportionate role in helping the world achieve the Paris target of net zero emissions by 2050, which demands measurement and collaboration along global supply chains.

Three shipping examples in 2018 are particularly telling of the shift that’s occurring.

  • Commodities trader Cargill, the largest private company in the USA, aims to cut shipping emissions 15 per cent by 2020 in response to both regulations and demands from its food manufacturing customers. It’s a rational business decision driven by the end consumer according to Cargill:

“This is not a charity project. We’re in a competitive space, operating in a market-driven economy. Things have to make economic sense, so we need to push [shipping companies] to be more efficient.”

  • Fertiliser producer Incitec Pivot became the first Carbon Neutral bulk shipping customer. While there’s been carbon offsetting available through airlines, container shipping lines and global freight forwarders for some time, and Australian road carriers like Kings Transport and Transforce already offset their own carbon emissions, none match the scale of Incitec’s neutralisation of 75,000 tonnes of CO2-e each year.
  • Maersk, the world’s largest container shipping group, pledges to cut net carbon emissions to zero by 2050.

And then there’s TK’Blue, the European ratings agency that precisely measures the social and environmental costs of Shippers’ logistics networks which it benchmarks against market peers to improve economic performance and reduce negative impacts. TK’Blue offers a new business model for Shippers to take control of their global multi-modal logistics footprint.

Becoming Transficient – Transparent, efficient transport

So, it’s in this climate of change, where customer-led collaborations share data, benchmark and disclose performance to systematically improve transport impacts, where I’ve passed my latest milestone in a decade-long quest to make a real difference in transport environmental excellence.

Clean Transport Action has morphed into Transficient, expanding into supply chain safety compliance and business development services that broaden the ways freight customers and fleet operators can build more efficient, competitive, ethical and profitable supply chains.

Transficient will continue offering leading edge transport carbon and energy advisory services delivered with collaborators Resource Intelligence, Green Squares and Mov3ment, with more exciting innovations to be announced in the coming months.

3 circles of Zero Carbon Transport:

3 circles

Business drives Action

Currently available and foreseeable policy measures and technologies can put transport on a decarbonisation pathway compatible with Paris agreement goals, and it’s clear to me that the self-interest of big business and their supply chain partners will really drive action in freight transport.

To join increasing numbers of leading organisations working together to solve big social and environmental challenges in transport and logistics:

Contact me on new email [email protected] and website

PS: Big thanks to Toustone, Dutch Media and Business Wodonga for huge support.