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The Future of CO2 Emissions Accounting in China’s Transport and Logistics Sector

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With the fast-paced development of the Chinese logistics sector and the booming Chinese freight industry, road   and highway freight volume have been growing 5.9% (to 8.19 billion tonnes) and 10.2% year-on-year respectively. To fully understand the transportation and logistics sector’s environmental and climate impact, systematically calculating, assessing and reporting the carbon footprint of the sector are crucial. The development of sound, comprehensive and accurate calculation tools and practices will greatly contribute to achieving a green and low-carbon transport sector in China and to meeting the country’s commitment of peaking carbon emissions around the year 2030.

Figure 1 Participants of the Logistics Emission Calculation Tools and Practice Forum

Aiming at creating a better understanding of the current system for calculating emissions of the Chinese logistics industry, to introduce effective tools and methodologies, and to exchange on best practices from Europe and China, the Smart Freight Forum – Logistics Emission Calculation Tools and Practice was held on 27 March 2019 in Beijing.  The forum was jointly organised by the Smart Freight Centre and the project Sino-German Cooperation on Low Carbon Transport (CLCT), implemented by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the German Federal Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) as part of the international climate initiative (IKI). With support of the Transport Planning Research Institute (TPRI) of the Ministry of Transport (MoT) of the People´’s Republic of China and sponsorship by the Energy Foundation, IKEA China and Scania China, the forum was made possible. A total of 60 participants from government, research institutes, shippers, logistics service providers (LSP) and their sub-contractors gathered for an in-depth exchange on the next steps to further systematically develop the carbon emission calculation system in the Chinese logistics sector.

The workshop, which was moderated by Wang Boyong, Director of the Smart Freight Center China, provided an exchange platform where the participating researchers such as Bill Magavern, Policy Director at Coalition for Clean Air, and Xu Honglei, Department Head of TPRI , highlighted the current trends of carbon emission accounting and the development of national standards. Industry representatives provided insights on the achievements and current challenges, which they are facing in making the logistics sector more climate friendly and sustainable.

Anne te Velde from the infrastructure and environment department of the Dutch Embassy in Beijing provided insights from the Netherlands’ approach towards zero-emission mobility and underlined the importance of establishing a transport decarbonisation alliance (TDA) and foster international cooperation between the 3Cs (countries, cities, and companies). Additionally, Ms te Velde also explained that there is a community interest in urban freight including measures on reducing CO2 emissions in the logistics sector. According to Amsterdam’s sustainability agenda, “air quality in the city will be improved through continued efforts to encourage the use of electric transport, by stimulating smart distribution processes and extending low emission zones to include more types of vehicles”.

Li Jingzhu, Project Director of the Strategic Alliance on Safety Improvements in the Dangerous Goods Transportation in China, GIZ, provided technical insights on carbon foot printing for freight and logistics services and elaborated on the standards of scientific GHG accounting and reporting principles. Showcasing best practices from German logistics companies DB Schenker and DHL, Ms Li stressed the urgent need for more transparency and adequate organisational and operational boundaries which define which part of the company and which transport modes, stationary processes and facilities should be considered for the emissions calculation. Furthermore, Ms Li also emphasised the importance of reliable data for the set-up and operation of carbon foot printing systems.

Sebastian Ibold, Project Director of the Sino-German Cooperation on Low Carbon Transport, GIZ, shared insights on the current developments of the transport sector in China and Germany. Mr Ibold stressed the importance of Sino-German cooperation on climate friendly transportation as both countries, China and Germany, are facing increasing volumes of freight transportation and related emissions, in particular due to the growing e-commerce industry and urban deliveries.

According to data from the Energy Foundation, the transportation sector currently accounts for 33%, 29% and 15% of the energy consumption in Europe, the US, and China respectively. With regards to air pollution, diesel trucks are one of the major contributors to urban air pollutants and account for almost 60% of the PM and 53.4% of the NOx pollutants. Xin Yan, Project Manager at the Energy Foundation, also further emphasised the critical role of the transportation sector in combating climate change and reducing carbon emissions.

Figure 2 The Actual and Estimated CO2 Emissions in Million Tonnes per Year from 1990-2050

Apart from road transportation, the CO2 emissions of the shipping sector have also been steadily increasing. As reported by the China Classification Society, the International Maritime Organization from the UN has adopted an initial strategy aiming at reducing the total GHG emissions by at least 50% from the shipping industry by 2050 compared to the levels from 2008.

All in all, the forum provided valuable opportunities for the participating industry experts, researchers and governmental authorities to exchange on the recent developments, achievements, and existing challenges in systematically measuring and assessing carbon emissions in the logistics sector.

We are looking forward to further fruitful discussion and cooperation on the topic of carbon foot printing with our Chinese partners in the framework of the Sino-German Cooperation on Low Carbon Transport and hope to contribute to the development of effective measures to mitigate carbon emissions.

Li Jingzhu is Project Director of the "Strategic Alliance on Improvements in the Dangerous Goods Transportation Sector in China". She is an expert on freight transport and logistics, in particular dangerous goods transportation.

Sebastian Ibold is Project Director of the Sino-German Cooperation on Low Carbon Transport.

Yasmin Chen supports the projects "Sino-German Cooperation on Low Carbon Transport" and "Strategic Alliance on Improvements in the Dangerous Goods Transportation Sector in China" through developing ideas for sustainable urban mobility planning in China and research on policy and market developments in the area of intermodal transportation and dangerous goods transportation.

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