Skip to main content
European Commission logo
English English
CORDIS - EU research results
Content archived on 2024-06-18

Carbon footprint of freight transport

Periodic Report Summary 2 - COFRET (Carbon footprint of freight transport)

Project Context and Objectives:
With foreign direct investments still on the rise and ongoing globalization of production and distribution activities, supply chains are often international in nature, encompassing a wide range of various transport and handling elements. Furthermore, the current transport system is powered by 95% petroleum products and is accountable for about 20 to 25% of the global energy related CO2 emissions. Therefore, the potential for achieving a measurable impact by improved transportation processes within supply chains on the worldwide scale is huge and governments as well as industry are more and more interested in obtaining transparency on emissions of products and transport in order to being able to improve the efficiency of transportation and transport chains.
In the past, carbon footprint calculation obligations did not exist in the sector of transport and logistics, neither on national nor on international levels. Approaches for the development of emission calculation tools were mostly taken by individual organizations and corporations. These approaches vary hugely though, and today a wide range of different methodologies and tools are applied by the various players to calculate their CO2 emissions, often focusing on a specific mode of transport. Furthermore different databases are used to calculate emissions with some calculations being based on data measured by individual companies and organizations, others being based on default data provided by public sources (e.g. HBEFA, COPERT 4). Various calculation tools apply different indicators and have different application scopes, often rendering comparison of the results impossible. In order to analyse the efficiency and effectiveness of different supply chains however, such comparability is required: comparison on shippers’ level, on transport mode level, on shipment level, on carrier level, on product level as well as over time are needed in order to identify best practice and improvement possibilities as well as to analyse the impact of amendments to existing processes. One globally applicable standard for the calculation of emissions of transport chains is therefore needed.
During the course of the COFRET project’s first term, two first approaches for such an international standard were released, which take into consideration transport chain specific emission calculation aspects: the EN16258 “Methodology for calculation and declaration of energy consumption and GHG emissions of transport services (freight and passengers)”, a first European standard, published in December 2012, and an international standard for the calculation of carbon footprint of products, the ISO 14067:2013 “Greenhouse gases -- Carbon footprint of products -- Requirements and guidelines for quantification and communication”. Furthermore, the French Grenelle II Law was introduced.

Based on this background, the COFRET project’s central objectives were:
• To deliver an in-depth review and analysis of existing carbon footprint calculation tools for transport chains
• To provide an overview of gaps and ambiguities as well as a recommendation of next steps in the process of the development of a global standard for the calculation of emissions along transport chains
• To ensure that the outcome of the COFRET project was communicated and implemented in further standardisation processes.

It was part of the scope of the COFRET approach to fully comply with the European standard EN16258. Furthermore, it was COFRET’s objective and aim to provide, jointly with its advisory board, a neutral platform for the future development of COFRET’s suggestions for the next steps needed to achieve global harmonisation of calculation principles and comparable reporting as part of a process to support global alignment of standardisation.

Project Results:
At the beginning of the COFRET project there was an important research and knowledge gap that needed to be closed: A structured analysis of over 120 of the most relevant existing tools, methods, databases for the calculation of emissions along supply chains was carried out. Over 70 aspects were investigated for each of these tools during the analysis. To build up a comprehensive list of existing resources relevant to the COFRET methodology, the items analysed were categorised into four groups: (1) methodologies, such as standards and guidebooks, (2) calculation tools, (3) emission factor databases and (4) other activities and initiatives, such as research projects, forums and communication channels. In general, the carbon footprint methodologies reviewed support a consistent, mutual approach based on life cycle thinking. However, the level of precision and detail varies, and there are significant methodological gaps regarding the inclusion of all logistics operations. Furthermore, loose guidance with numerous alternatives to choose from, for example regarding allocation, leads currently to confusion and lack of comparability. Especially in the context of complex supply chain configurations, combining various methods in order to cover the entire chain inevitably leads to incomparability, even if each of the methods were compliant with a given standard on an individual basis. The number of carbon footprint calculation tools and data sources analysed showed great variation in quality, coverage and originality. The works carried out within this analysis reflected that among the existing methods, tools and databases there are suitable elements for calculation of carbon footprint of transport and logistics along supply chains, even though a harmonised framework is currently missing. Because of the current lack of universally established standards, various stakeholders have independently developed incomparable methods, tools and data for various solutions for various users and with differing scope.
The focus during the second part of the COFRET was to support industry, shippers and logistics providers in gaining transparency on the compatibility and comparability of existing tools and calculation approaches with emerging calculation standards, instead of developing a meta-methodology for the calculation of transport emissions, as originally intended. Furthermore, based on the extensive exchange and discussions fostered by COFRET between the mentioned parties as well as with the EU’s DG Research and DG Move, the COFRET project community requested that a further continuation of the discussion platform provided by COFRET should be ensured beyond the existence of the project itself as well as of COFRET’s technical works. In order to meet this request, it was decided by the COFRET consortium and the EU together with the COFRET Advisory Board to cast the project results into an ISO Workshop Agreement (IWA) with the aim to take the first steps towards a global CO2 calculation standard for transport chains. The purpose of the IWA was to define a framework and to map out requirements toward a global GHG emission calculation standard for transport, based on the existing standards such as the EN 16258, the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, ISO 14040, ISO 14044, ISO 14064, Part 1 to 3, ISO/TS 14067, and ISO/TR 14069 and current industry practices.
The resulting IWA no. 16 “International harmonized method(s) for a coherent quantification of CO2e emissions of freight transport” is based on COFRET’s main objectives. Beyond the transparency achieved with the in-depth gap analysis and the real-life test cases in cooperation with industry partners, the IWA contributes to ensuring a comparison of different supply chains and by this the identification of best practice.

Potential Impact:
Planning for continuation of the process and technical work initiated as part of COFRET has been especially important given the importance given to this topic by private and public sector colleagues across the globe. The first outward step in the process was taken at a Workshop organized by COFRET in Berlin in October 2013, although many months of consultation had taken place with the Advisory Board and other stakeholders. At the workshop, attended by 40 representatives from a wide range of organisations, the participants unanimously agreed a vision towards future harmonized carbon calculation and reporting for freight transport that they believe encompasses the principles that need to be met to ensure compatibility and consistency across future work on this subject. The TRB workshop in Jan 2014 built upon this quickly and provided momentum to the discussions among the group of logistics companies and industry led/backed initiatives that formed the nucleus of the COFRET Advisory Board who decided to set up the Global Logistics Emissions Council (GLEC). GLEC aims to achieve:
• A common industry vision statement regarding methodologies and broader green freight
• Globally harmonized methodologies (Global Framework for Freight Methodologies) for measurement and reporting of emissions from freight movement covering all modes, transfers and regions
• Alignment of industry led/backed initiatives across modes and global regions
• Active engagement and communication with the entire global freight sector and other key stakeholders, e.g. government, scientific/research institutes, NGOs, development agencies
In November 2014 the COFRET project ended with a unanimous acceptance (one abstention) in the voting on IWA no. 16 “International harmonized method(s) for a coherent quantification of CO2e emissions of freight transport”. This was the project’s final concrete part of the exploitation and global dissemination. The IWA is only one of the outcomes of the project though: The deliverables, particularly those on the evaluation of existing carbon emission calculation tools, found a lot of interest already during the project term itself; the publications on conferences and in scientific journals were met with a lot of interest and were a central part of the dissemination; the constant exchange with stakeholders, the EU officer, related EU projects and global activities further strengthened the impact of the project to the point that the nucleus of the COFRET Advisory Board decided to set up the Global Logistics Emissions Council (GLEC). The COFRET project completed, supported by its Advisory Board, the tasks it was given: contributing to the greening of products and operation and to provide industry, shippers and logistics providers, with the opportunity to remove the current uncertainty over calculating the carbon footprint of freight transport.

List of Websites: