It's a common goal for people and industries worldwide to work together to reduce our collective carbon footprint and counteract climate change. The shipping industry plays a significant part in this equation, as carbon emissions from shipping make up a substantial portion of the problem. Also, shipping is connected to every industry that sells goods or products.
Fortunately, this industry provides a ample opportunity to make a change. A shift to greener methods has already been happening, yet work is still to do. Shippers have a lot of power. When they track carbon emissions for each shipment, they can make better decisions on carriers and the best ways to optimize the logistics network to reduce emissions.
Annually, container ships contribute approximately one billion metric tons of carbon dioxide. This amount equates to about 3 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions on a global scale. Beyond ships, the transportation industry contains many other forms of transportation that contribute to carbon emissions. These include trucks, aircraft, trains, and others.
The EPA explains that this sector is a top U.S. greenhouse gas emissions contributor. In 2020, it was the top one, contributing 27 percent of emissions in the country. Note that these numbers include more than shipping and logistics; it encompasses the entire transportation sector. Broken down, most of the 2020 transportation sector emissions in the U.S. came from light-duty vehicles, at 57 percent, and medium- to heavy-duty trucks, at 26 percent. After that, aircraft accounted for 8 percent, an "other" category 5 percent, rail 2 percent, and ships and boats 2 percent.
Shipping is already responsible for a considerable portion of emissions globally. We are only experiencing an increase in e-commerce activity, peak season activity, and shipping. Projections based on current levels of growth show that shipping could be connected to 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide by the year 2050.
These emissions and the emissions of black carbon by the shipping industry contribute to climate change. Shipping's main contributor is carbon dioxide; its second is black carbon from ships burning marine fuel. A reduction of emissions by the shipping industry does fall under the Paris Agreement, as it requires reducing all emissions economy-wide. The IMO agreed to a plan for the shipping sector to cut emissions by 50 percent or more by 2050. The industry is on its way through methods like carbon-neutral vessels, yet not enough work has been done so far.
To gain a better understanding of your emissions, you can track three types:
Customers want to know more about the environmental impact of companies, and a large portion like to choose companies with sustainable practices. They are often willing to take steps like paying more and delaying shipping times when these steps are more eco-friendly. Following better practices on all scopes of emissions can not only help reduce your contribution to climate change but also put you in a good light with customers.
Nitrogen oxides make up another type of emissions to be aware of and track. These are potent gases that react with volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These gases occur during fuel burning at high temperatures, like the energy used by vehicles, industrial boilers, power plants, etc.
Regulations designed to control nitrogen oxide emissions include:
Shippers must reduce their carbon footprint and help to control climate change. Fortunately, the sector can make this change. Big data can help to move us forward toward this goal. Big data in shipping helps by tracking and showing accurate, reliable information on associated carbon emissions.
While there are not strong regulations to cut emissions in shipping, and fossil fuels in this sector have tax incentives, other forces are pushing for change. Sharing big data publicly can drive customer actions and other significant changes. In addition, companies are looking for their shipping to reduce carbon. It also benefits companies to reduce the cost of offsetting emissions by saving on them. More companies and consumers are making choices based on green shipping, so the shipping sector will need to respond to work with these companies. People, companies, and governments are looking at the shipping industry's steps taken to control carbon emissions. Potential solutions include steps like electric vessels and small consumer product price increases.
Big data comes into play because it shares the environmental information of each shipper. You gain details like shipping CO2 emissions and nitrogen oxide emissions. This shipping data could incorporate carbon emissions into negotiations and trade deals. In addition to EEOI and EEDI data, we could look at the daily emissions of each vessel and the type of transport by one large vessel or two small ones. AI can collect and analyze emissions data to help move the industry forward.
Let's look at a few strategic examples of data helping impact carbon emissions in the sector. Freight brokers can use fuel or freight lane information to reduce carbon emissions. In addition, an integrated tech stack within supply chain systems gives more visibility into carbon emissions, broken down by meaningful information to help you find areas for improvement.
As a shipper, you can rely on tools and partners to support you in collecting and providing accurate and meaningful emissions data. Intelligent Audit, along with other data visibility related to shipping activity, provides the following information so shippers may identify areas and make better decisions to reduce their carbon emissions:
This kind of information can aid you in making decisions to reduce your total shipping carbon footprints, such as choosing lanes and carriers.
The shipping industry is a major player in carbon emissions that contribute to climate change. While there are good intentions to make a change and small shifts are happening, it is not enough to curb this problem. By focusing on your shipping emissions and using data to support visibility and decision-making, you can stay at the forefront of moving the sector forward and helping the environment, which only helps your reputation and the willingness of businesses and customers to choose your shipping services.
Learn more about reducing your emissions and shipping carbon footprint at Intelligent Audit.
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