14 February 2019

The Final LEARN International Workshop Presents Project Results

On 6-7 February, CLECAT engaged in a two-day closing workshop of the Logistics Emissions Accounting and Reduction Network (LEARN) project. Over the past 3 years, the project has tried to mobilise companies to measure and report the carbon footprint of their global logistics supply chains, aiming to influence meaningful emissions reduction actions. At the workshop, the LEARN project partners, among which CLECAT, presented results and practical examples, demonstrating that logistics and freight emissions accounting works for business and is instrumental for improved efficiency and emissions reduction.

Delivering an opening speech, Ms Magda Kopczynska, Director Waterborne transport at DG MOVE, reminded delegates that the EU’s ambition is to reduce transport emissions by 60% by 2050 compared to 1990, emphasising that freight transportation cannot be ignored and collaboration between governments and the private sector is essential to achieve this target. She also highlighted the long-term EU emissions reduction strategy, with low-emission mobility at heart. Currently under consultation with EU institutions and Member States, the strategy will form the basis of the future climate policy of the incoming Commission, determining to what extent the EU is committed to climate-neutrality. The shift towards multimodality was also confirmed to be among the Commission’s priorities, as well as digitalisation, the internalisation of external costs of transport and the integration of environmental and climate objectives in the future EU research and innovation agenda.

Pondering a common framework to measure transport logistics emissions, Ms Kopczynska specified that, to have a credible methodology, it needs to be recognised by everyone, while ensuring the comparability of different systems and tools. As such, a key focus of the LEARN project has been to promote the uptake of the Global Logistics Emissions Council (GLEC) Framework – a universal methodology to calculate emissions from logistics operations across the multi-modal supply chains. As part of LEARN, the practical applicability of the GLEC Framework was successfully tested by over 30 companies representing both customers (shippers) and providers of freight and logistics services (carriers, operators) across different modes of transport. At the workshop, Ms Sophie Punte from the Smart Freight Centre introduced the revised and updated version of the GLEC Framework, due for release in mid-2019. She also presented the tools for business to calculate logistics emissions using the GLEC Framework, as well as the Guide for GHG Emissions Accounting for Logistics Sites, recently published by the Fraunhofer institute, which was developed under the LEARN project as a supplement to the GLEC Framework.

On the global scale, Mr Alan McKinnon, Professor in Logistics from the Kühne Logistics University, warned that the estimated growth in freight and the lack of progress in cutting CO2 emissions to date means that there is real urgency to increase the decarbonisation efforts in the logistics sector. He cited the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s report, stating that, even if countries implement all their global transport pledges, transport CO2 emissions in 2030 would still be close to the level of 2015. Mr McKinnon explained that there is an over-reliance on technological and energy supply changes, meaning that the potential by tweaks to management systems, eco-driver training and design changes remain largely untapped. It was also suggested that due to current emission trends and the lack of inclination by the sector towards carbon budgeting, restricting the level of freight movement should be considered. Other freight decarbonisation measures include shifting freight to lower carbon modes, improving vehicle loading, increasing energy efficiency and switching to low-carbon energy. Mr McKinnon’s presentation containing more information can be found here.

Mr Mark Billet, who leads the International Road Transport Union (IRU)’s road freight transport and environmental affairs department in Europe, identified several challenges to credible emissions accounting and reduction, among which the lacking data-sharing cooperation between stakeholders in the logistics supply chain. Mr Billet warned that building trust within the logistics chain should become a general trend, as credible data sharing will not be possible without it. Mr Billet added that there is a need for improved data collection: drivers need to be trained on how to access the “magnificent data vaults” that they pilot, as currently there is generally no way to use the information directly. He concluded that the largest challenge will be to encourage carriers to make carbon footprinting a standard practice: this would allow them to immediately see it as a benefit to their businesses, and not as a burden or a cost. What is also of critical importance, according to Mr Billet, is to couple the carbon footprinting exercise to the business plans of companies.

To underscore the importance of business leadership, the companies that participated in the LEARN project shared their experiences and benefits stemming from logistics emissions accounting. The Smart Freight Centre, the coordinator of the project, recognised ten companies, including DB Schenker, Deutsche Post DHL Group, DOW Chemicals, GEODIS, HEINEKEN, HP, Maersk, Trafigura, Volkswagen and Konzernlogistik, who have demonstrated leadership in moving beyond reporting to implement emissions reduction solutions, as well as advocating for a sector-wide action.

A number of other project deliverables aiming to support businesses in calculating, reporting and reducing logistics emissions were presented, including the GLEC Declaration – a single, harmonised format to request and report emissions figures, – as well as research and development agenda, material for training and educating companies and policy recommendations for governments to stimulate business action. Discussing the latter during an interactive session, moderated by CLECAT Director-General Nicolette van der Jagt, participants expressed their support for the development of an ISO standard for carbon footprinting. Furthermore, the roles of the different levels of government need to be clarified to identify which initiatives work best at which level, be it local, national, EU or international. Eventually, ensuring professional competence by training and educating the public and private sectors is of crucial importance to make sure that future policies work at the advantage rather than the detriment of the industry.

Looking beyond the project completion in the end of March 2019, the LEARN project partners encouraged stakeholders to continue working together to not only maximise the business uptake of carbon footprinting, but also to take practical steps to reduce emissions and campaign for critical government policy development. The conclusion was made that companies have to speak up so that policy-makers can hear them: connecting with industry associations in this area could be of great help.

Please note that the LEARN project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the grant agreement No 723984.