Urban freight and supply chain connectivity in a changing global economy

By Tsu-Jui Cheng, Sustainable Mobility Program Manager, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability and Sunandan Tiwari , Director of Global Implementation, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability

Increasing globalization and consumerism have changed the way goods are transported and cities are at the frontlines of managing the logistics of freight. At the International Transport Forum 2019, ICLEI shared city strategies and private sector innovations that aim to mitigate the environmental impact of urban freight.

By 2050, 90 percent of the projected increase in urban population is expected to be concentrated in developing countries in Asia and Africa. These growing cities are becoming powerhouses of economic growth but also the biggest consumers of energy and resources. Whilst trade in OECD countries is decreasing, the developing world continues to see substantial increases in trade that require significant investments in infrastructure, such as transport and communications, to support freight connectivity.

The highest costs and externalities related to freight logistics, such as emissions and impacts on health, generally occur in the first and last mile of transport which overwhelmingly happens in and around cities. Therefore it makes economic, environmental, and social sense for international and national entities to actively engage local authorities in defining and developing sustainable infrastructure, policies and programs to address urban freight.

While freight is a significant factor in urban transportation landscapes and some cities and private companies have been looking towards solutions, sustainable urban freight still faces several challenges. For instance, there is a lack of clarity on the responsibility between different levels of governments and the private sector and local governments are short of mandate and resources to manage urban freight.

These challenges were discussed at the International Transport Forum 2019 in Leipzig, where ICLEI panelists engaged with colleagues from the North Adriatic Sea Port Authority, International Transport Worker’s Federation, Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine, and International Road Transport Union, with an eye towards awareness raising and solution building. City strategies and private sector innovations were brought to the table that could improve the management of urban freight from utilizing data for planning and implementation to investing in systems and capacities.

ICLEI’s EcoLogistics project, supported by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) through the International Climate Initiative (IKI), is helping cities to assess and monitor their emissions from urban transport. This exercise will lead to the development of data sets that cities can use in collaboration with key stakeholders to plan more sustainable systems for urban freight.

Cities like Kochi and Shimla in India are focusing on integrated land use and transport development to promote balanced regional growth in line with regional development strategies.

Bogota, Colombia is developing an Urban Logistics Network that aims to mitigate negative externalities of urban freight. The network seeks to exchange information with private companies in order to help them improve their practices. The city plans to build the network into a strategic tool for voluntary participants, allowing diverse stakeholders to collaboratively manage urban logistics within a common framework.

Private sector companies are also promoting measures to improve last-mile deliveries. These include e-vehicles of different capacities, and ‘Battery as a Service’, or BaaS, pilot project that makes charged batteries available for e-cargo bikes, reduces the downtime of businesses delivering goods.

The EcoLogistics project is supported by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) through the International Climate Initiative (IKI).

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