COP26: Net Zero Logistics | IPT

In 2019, the UK set the most ambitious climate change target to create at least an 80% reduction in gas emissions compared to 1990 levels. This soon advanced to an aim of becoming completely net zero by 2050. This legally binding target considered the latest scientific evidence with recommendation from the Climate Change Committee (CCC) with public support. To meet net zero targets by 2050, greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced with the use of alternative technologies and fuels, the use of carbon capture and storage (CCUS) and the creation of green jobs. As part of the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, creating greener buildings, accelerating the shift to zero emissions vehicles and advancing aviation ad maritime technology all present key environmental opportunities for the logistics sector. The last two years has presented significant challenges to the sector with a huge surge in demand throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and difficulties concerning Brexit. The industry showed resilience during a difficult 18 months, adapting operations and working quickly to face the extreme pressures of keeping the nation stocked with goods and services.


With a net zero target set for 2050, the logistics sector will be affected by developments in transport with the roll-out of electric vehicles on the road and the use of hydrogen and renewable fuels to power HGVs. Transport day at COP26 is likely to recognise the urgency of transitioning to zero emission vehicles and how not only cars but vans, buses, trucks and lorries must all be included in the shift to ensure the goals of the Paris Agreement are met. The transport sector is the fasting growing contributor to climate change, accounting for around a quarter of energy-related emissions. Vehicle manufacturers will need to show leadership in moving to supply only zero emission vehicles and to phase out the use of petrol and diesel engines. Counties will be encouraged to commit to ensuring all new car and van sales by 2035-2040 produce no emissions and that there are policies in place to accelerate uptake in purchasing of emission-free vehicles. Manufacturers will be asked to commit to stopping the selling of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2035, if not earlier and businesses that own fleets will be implored to join the EV100 initiative and establish a fully zero emission fleet by 2030 or earlier. The EV100 initiative uses scale, speed and collaboration to bring together organisations to make commitments and action these with a goal of global net zero by 2050. In three years, nearly 90 global companies signed up to change their fleets to electric power, influencing other businesses to do the same and proving their success.

Point 6 of the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan recognises the need for investment in R&D to develop zero-emission aircraft and develop low-carbon maritime technology. The logistics sector currently relies heavily on HGVs to transport goods but with the right technological developments, freight such as rail and small ships could be used more frequently. In theory, rail should have a bigger advantage over road delivery as it is faster, more streamlined and straight forward. With improvements to access, it could become a more popular way of transporting goods. Rail freight is set to play a larger role in the movement of goods in the UK. The total volume of rail freight moved has been increasing by 3% year-on-year. If sufficient capacity is made available, Network Rail forecast that rail freight could grow by 30% by 2035.

Warehouses & distribution centres

The impact of COVID-19 has caused increased demand for warehouses or distribution centres as online shopping increased with customer habits changing to expect deliveries rather than in-store purchasing. Along with the use of transport in the centre, traditional warehouses entail a range of environmental issues including carbon dioxide emissions, noise, and light pollution as well as road safety. Developers, investors, and occupants are looking to incorporate renewable power and energy efficiency measures by improving their current facilities and designing buildings with a carbon neutral design. Solar paneled electricity production and sustainably powered sources of heating are a few of the ways the sector can improve their carbon footprint. Innovation will be key for both improving existing buildings and constructing new spaces with zero emissions.

Logistics UK will be launching its ‘Route to Net Zero’ manifesto at COP26. The route map will plan to decarbonise logistics across all transport modes – air, road, sea, and rail detailing the measures industry needs from government and other stakeholders to make it a reality.