Deutsche Post DHL backs ‘carbon insetting’ to speed freight transport decarbonization
Decarbonisation of freight transportation could be accelerated by using CO2 emissions offsetting funding to finance innovative technologies directly reducing emissions in the logistics chain, Deutsche Post DHL Group and sustainable freight organization The Smart Freight Centre are proposing.
This ‘carbon insetting’ concept would ‘unlock’ vital funding for a technological shift towards greener logistics by allocating more funds for decarbonization projects within the logistics industry, according to their new joint white paper "Carbon Insets for the Logistics Sector".
Ample solutions already exist, such as sustainable fuel, fleet renewal, engine retrofitting, and efficiency projects. These investments would not only be a highly efficient way to decarbonize the transport sector, but also result in structural improvements of the entire logistics supply chain in the long run, they claimed.
Industry-wide approach needed
However, this concept will require agreed industry-wide accounting standards along with “comprehensive collaboration between carriers, forwarders and shippers”, they underlined.
"To ensure that the logistics industry can continue to contribute successfully to the fight against climate change, we need a uniform and sector-specific standard for compensating for, and reducing, carbon emissions," explained Tim Scharwath, Deutsche Post DHL Group board member and CEO DHL Global Forwarding, Freight. "In the long-term, greater decarbonization of transport is key to driving positive change. Future-proofed logistics companies should think now about developing a stringent insetting strategy."
Suzanne Greene, Smart Freight Centre's Expert Advisor and author of the white paper, added: "There is an opportunity to channel carbon offset funds related to transportation emissions to projects within the logistics sector - a practice known as carbon insetting. This paper lays the foundation for a system to accelerate freight decarbonization."
Low spending on reducing logistics emissions
Freight transportation is currently responsible for 8% of global carbon emissions (11% if emissions from logistics sites are included). Recent studies by the International Transport Forum forecast these emissions to double by 2050 as demand is anticipated to grow threefold in this period. At present some freight operators mitigate part of their transportation emissions by investing in carbon offsets, such as in forestry projects.
But overall climate action by companies is largely voluntary and lacks coordination and thus the pace of freight decarbonization is too slow, the two organisations emphasised. In 2018, only 0.2% of the USD 268 million voluntary carbon offset market went into transport-related projects.
“Funds spent outside the transport sector are meaningful but will not help to advance the decarbonization of the global freight transportation network itself,” they declared.
Carbon insetting, where offset funding is directed to address impacts inside the logistics supply chain, can be part of the solution to accelerate decarbonization of the transport sector, the white paper proposes.
The types of projects that could be applied at scale are numerous: the scaling of alternative, sustainable fuels, fleet renewal or engine retrofits can upgrade transportation networks with lower carbon technologies. Improving the efficiency of shipments leads to reduced fuel consumption and avoids excess emissions.
All these approaches provide meaningful reductions in climate impact, as well as benefits for public health and safety and therefore do not only contribute to achieving the Paris Agreement, but also support the Sustainable Development Goals.
Lighthouse projects already ongoing
The white paper also highlights specific examples that provide a blueprint for insets. For sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), an insetting solution with a book and claim mechanism for sustainable fuel certificates would remove barriers, such as the need for physical traceability of those fuels in a company's supply chain, while providing the funding to incentivize further development of these fuels. This concept is similar to the GoodShipping program, which is advancing the use of biofuels in ocean freight.
In addition, Deutsche Post DHL Group's insetting program to foster sustainable road freight technologies, the Skicka Grönt ("Send Green") program in Sweden is featured. Under this scheme, participating customers pay a fixed surcharge for every shipped parcel, which is then fully invested into biofuels and electric vehicles within the Swedish transport network.
Collaboration across the industry needed
While there is vast potential to apply carbon insets to the transportation sector, there is a need for an industry-wide initiative to further develop, advance and standardize the concept, DP DHL Group emphasised. MIT Sustainable Supply Chains, Smart Freight Centre and its Global Logistics Emissions Council (GLEC), which Deutsche Post DHL Group is a member of, want to move the needle on this issue.
The first step is to develop methods and guidelines for carbon inset accounting and reporting, based on the GLEC Framework, that covers logistics emissions more broadly, and test this with companies. This is the first prerequisite for taking further steps to fully enable acceptance of carbon insetting as a viable means to reduce outsourced "scope 3" freight transport emissions in the logistics industry.
The next step is for these mechanisms to be acknowledged by existing and future reporting and accounting standards. Carriers, forwarders and shippers need to work together to achieve this goal, the two organisations concluded.