Urban freight: Untapped potential for the low-carbon transition

Transport contributes to 23 percent of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, pointing to the significant potential for mitigation action in this sector.

Currently, 75 percent of national climate action plans, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), identify passenger transport in urban areas as an important sector for reducing emissions. Passenger transport is indeed a major contributor of global greenhouse emissions, but current NDCs do not adequately address another key part of urban transport: freight.

Urban freight represents up to 25 percent of urban vehicles, takes up to 40 percent of motorized road space and contributes to up to 40 percent of urban transport-related CO2 emissions. Urban freight includes a wide variety of services, from waste collection trucks to construction trucks or commercial related trucks. Today, a growing number of cities are including urban freight in their plans to reduce their emissions.

ICLEI is starting a four-year EcoLogistics project involving cities in Argentina, Colombia and India. The project  will focus on enhancing capacities, strategies and policies to promote low carbon urban freight through local action and national support.

The countries selected are all committed to reducing their emissions, and each a large share of emissions in these countries are from urban freight. This project will advance the development of effective regulatory, planning and logistical instruments at all levels of government to support low-carbon freight. Cities will seek to develop viable alternatives to low-quality diesel-powered freight vehicles in particular for last mile logistics.

Sophie Punte, from the Smart Freight Center, one of ICLEI’s partner organizations in the EcoLogistics project, believes freight is a central part of the city and must be transformed. She is convinced that local governments need to be equipped with tools to assess the impacts of urban freight, and that they need guidance to better plan for freight, plus tools, solutions and overall support from the private sector, civil society, consumers and national governments. She also pointed to the fact that cities are also finding themselves in a position where they face the externalities of expanding free delivery services from companies like Amazon.

The good news about the transport sector is that the solutions exist and have been tested at scale. It is now only a matter of implementation.

This post is based on the “Low carbon transport: moving people and goods, not vehicles” session organized by ICELI and Kaohsiung City at the Cities & Regions Pavilion at COP23.

The Ecologistics project is funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) through its international Climate Initiative (IKI) program.

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