Interview with Sophie Punte from Smart Freight Center
Sophie Punte, Executive Director, Smart Freight Centre
SLoCaT: Can you briefly describe the commitment that is being announced at the Climate Summit on 23 September 2014?
The Global Green Freight Action Plan commits to ensuring that green freight programs exist in more countries worldwide, cover all transport modes, and are effective in reducing greenhouse gases, black carbon and air pollutants. This is done in three ways: expanding and aligning green freight programs, incorporating black carbon in these programs alongside greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants, and raising awareness on how these programs can help achieve greater energy security, improve public health and provide economic benefits to companies. What is unique about this commitment is that for the first time governments, multinational companies and global institutions are coming together to reduce emissions from global freight movement in a coordinated way.
SLoCaT: What motivated your organization and partner organizations to develop the commitment for the SG’s Climate Summit?
The Global Green Freight Action Plan is an existing initiative of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) that decided to include green freight programs as a dedicated initiative because of the high contribution of diesel to transport emissions: heavy duty vehicles worldwide contribute to about a third of transport’s CO2 emissions and roughly 75% of black carbon emissions. The SG’s Climate Summit provides an ideal platform to make this global commitment public and obtain momentum for more governments, companies and other stakeholders to join in.
SLoCaT: What will be the impact of the SG’s personal engagement in climate change for your specific commitment?
The SG’s personal engagement ensures that green freight obtains the high level political support it needs. Until now, freight transport was the Cinderella of sustainable transport efforts even though freight and logistics contributes to roughly 6% of global CO2 emissions, which is roughly the same as the oil and gas sector or commercial buildings. The SG can help mobilize government and business leaders to give more prominence to sustainable freight and logistics in their climate change efforts.
The good news is that there are existing programs we can build on. For example, the SmartWay program started ten years ago in the US and its 3000 partners saved 120 million barrels of fuel, which is equivalent to 10 million cars of the road for an entire year. Several other countries have initiated national programs, such as France, The Netherlands, Mexico and China, and are supplemented by industry programs, such as Clean Cargo Working Group for maritime freight and Green Freight Europe and Green Freight Asia.
SLoCaT: Where is your personal inspiration coming from in the work you do on transport and climate change?
I have had a passion for the environment since I was a little girl and consider climate change the key challenge of this century. My personal belief is that today’s global problems cannot be solved by individual stakeholders, but requires coordinated efforts between government, the private sector and civil society. The freight sector fascinates me because despite the huge potential for fuel efficiency and emissions reduction, we don’t see change fast enough or across industry. A key reason is lack of coordination, which is amplified due to the high fragmentation of the sector and stakeholders. This is why I set up the Smart Freight Centre as a global NGO dedicated to bring industry and other stakeholders together and make the freight sector more efficient and environmentally sustainable. Smart Freight Centre will support green freight programs and business leaders in three ways: developing a universal standard for calculating freight emissions, catalyzing the adoption of technologies across regions, and connecting industry programs globally with national green freight programs to maximize cooperation.
SLoCaT: How do you plan to follow up on the commitment?
With the input from existing programs and industry, we are developing an online “go-to” portal that provides guidance and information for governments and other stakeholders who want to establish or improve national green freight programs. Specifically, the portal will cover existing programs and policies; methodologies and data sources for freight emissions calculation and reporting; and information on the performance of technologies and other measures.
In parallel, we will support countries in developing their programs and work on concrete options to reduce greenhouse gas and black carbon emissions from freight, initially working with Bangladesh, Mexico and Vietnam.
Finally, we will explore how black carbon and other air pollutants can be incorporated alongside greenhouse gases in methodologies to calculate emissions and green freight programs that aim to reduce them.
SLoCaT: Anything else that you would like to share on your commitment?
The Global Green Freight Action Plan is led by the US, Canada, ICCT, Clean Air Asia, Smart Freight Centre and World Bank. Several other countries, companies and global institutions have pledged to help make this plan successful and we welcome others to join our cause! Just send us an email at email@example.com or visit our website.