Port Report: Ahead of Earth Day, European shippers join extinction rebellion

Logistics and climate change activism have the same aim, to make sure that climate change is mitigated with shippers and freight forwarders taking action to reduce emissions. Credit: Kevin J. Frost

Shippers and freight forwarders believe that they can reduce costs and emissions, fighting waste and climate change at the same time, putting them in the same movement as climate activists.

This weekend is the 49th anniversary of the Earth Day celebration, which seeks to raise awareness of environmental concern across the globe. In the spirit of that event, European shippers and freight forwarders associations have aligned themselves with the spirit of the extinction rebellion, in which thousands of activists across many European cities have disrupted daily lives to highlight the need for climate action.

The logistics industry action by the European Shippers’ Council (ESC) and the freight forwarders’ association, Clecat, is a project developing a methodology to monitor the carbon footprint of logistics operations with a view to cutting emissions as well as costs.

It is clear that the shippers’ council and freight forwarders are not advocating direct action. However, it is a measure of how environmental issues have entered the mainstream dialogue; these institutions now advocate the monitoring and cutting of emissions to improve efficiency.

Many climate change scientists are warning that the global warming process is progressing far faster than they had originally expected and that there is a need to make the shift to sustainable living within the next 10 to 12 years if humans are to achieve the goal of maintaining average temperature increases within the 2 degree centigrade limit set at the Paris climate change summit in 2015.

In the opinion of many, in order to achieve that goal all parts of society must make changes to the way in which they conduct business and live their lives. For the ESC and Clecat this means looking at how logistics users measure their carbon footprint as a first step, then looking at ways in which savings can be made.

The ocean freight industry is in the process of making major changes of cleaning up its environmental footprint. Next year, vessel owners will have to cut the sulphur emissions from ship fuel by over 80 percent. An even more daunting challenge lies ahead as the global shipping business will have to cut its carbon output by half by the year 2050.

In the first instance there was a requirement to understand how to measure emissions for cargo transported on a variety of transport modes. In an effort to develop this process the LEARN project (Logistics, Emissions, Accounting and Reduction Network), partially funded by the European Commission, used the Global Logistics Emissions Council (GLEC) Framework established to account for carbon emissions from a variety of sources.

LEARN was established in October 2016 and the final report of the project was published in March 2019. That report offers support to logistics providers and shippers that actively want to curb emissions from their activities. Thirty shippers with varying degrees of environmental accounting across all transport modes were enlisted to take part in the project and reported back to the project managers.

Project staff analyzed responses to a questionnaire, and according to LEARN gave a better understanding of the drivers, enablers and barriers of logistics emissions accounting, as well as applying the GLEC Framework by companies in practice and the data availability and data exchange possibilities.

In a joint statement from the ESC and Clecat, they said that the LEARN project developed a number of materials aimed at aiding companies to calculate, report and reduce emissions.

“These include the GLEC Declaration – a harmonized format to disclose emissions performance in B2B and public reporting – as well as guidance for logistics sites emissions accounting, training and education programs on carbon footprinting, a research and development agenda and recommendations for policy-making at different levels of governance,” said the statement.

In addition, the associations said they welcomed plans to “upgrade” the GLEC Framework into an International Standards Organization standard.

“We will also take LEARN policy recommendations forward and advocate them at the European Union level, with a view to promote incentivising policy action and gather support among the relevant stakeholders,” they added.

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Nick Savvides, Staff Writer

Nick came to FreightWaves in December 2018 from Fairplay, a shipping market publication. He covers the shipping, freight and logistics industry in Europe. Since starting his career as a journalist in 1990, Nick has worked for a number of significant freight publications abroad, including International Freighting Weekly, the online news service for Containerisation International, ICIS, the chemical industry reporting service, as well as Seatrade in Greece. Nick also worked as a freelance journalist writing for Lloyd’s List, The Observer, The Express and The European newspapers among others before joining Seatrade Newsweek in Athens.

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