VDE / Martin Wolczyk using stock.adobe.com / zoa-arts;
2023-10-01 VDE dialog

CO2 footprint: An eco-package for freight transport

European freight traffic places an enormous burden on the environment. This is partly due to the fact that freight transporters rely on trucks, which cause huge emissions of CO2. The European Commission believes this can't continue, and has proposed a series of measures in response.

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In the EU, the proportion of traffic-related CO2 emissions that is caused by freight traffic is over 30 percent. It's also set to increase further – by about 25 percent by 2030 and by 50 percent by 2050. +++ More than 50 percent of goods in the EU are transported by road. +++ 99 percent of the heavy goods vehicles on European roads have internal combustion engines that mainly run on imported fossil fuels. +++ Road transport causes seven times more CO2 than rail freight traffic. A truck involved in freight transport emits 118 grams of greenhouse gases per ton-kilometer. In inland shipping, the figure is 33 g/tkm, and it's just 16 g/tkm in rail transport.

In order to reduce the CO2 footprint of freight traffic, the European Commission proposed a series of measures in summer 2023. The “Green Deal: Greening freight for more economic gain with less environmental impact” includes three laws (see below).

The declared objective is to improve efficiency in the sector and thereby help reduce transport-related emissions by 90 percent by 2050 as stated in the European Green Deal. At the same time, the further growth of the EU's internal market should not be hindered.

The next step will be to discuss the proposals in further committees in the ordinary legislative procedure.

1. More efficient use of rail capacity

In order to attract more freight companies to a sector with much lower emissions, plans are in place not only to expand the rail network, but to use it more efficiently, as well. The aim is to ensure fewer delays and capacity overloads and better coordinate freight traffic with passenger traffic so logistics companies can plan more reliably without causing disadvantages for passengers.

2. Selling more low-emission trucks

To incentivize more freight carriers to choose low-emission trucks, there will be higher weight limits for such vehicles to account for the additional weight of their new, environmentally friendly technologies. If these technologies continue to develop and become lighter, freight companies will then benefit from larger payloads.

3. Standardized calculations of CO2 footprints

The EU Commission is also proposing a common methodological approach in which companies can calculate their greenhouse gas emissions. This is meant to ensure improved comparability and reliable traceability – especially when firms are required to document their CO2 footprint.

Source reference: EU Commission, Federal Environment Agency