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The Climate Case

Total greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. freight activities grew by more than 50% between 1990 and 2013 and greenhouse gas emissions from global freight movement are expected to quadruple by 2050.[1] As global economies continue to grow, so, too, will greenhouse gas emissions unless we get smarter about how we move our goods.

Adopting efficiencies in shipping cargo, logistics optimization, and intermodal transport can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the global movement of goods while also providing significant savings. Switching to alternative fuels and transitioning fleets from traditional gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles to hybrid and electric vehicles can reduce or eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from ground fleets. 

There are about 70 new technologies available on the market that can increase truck efficiency, with an opportunity to save between 30-40% on fuel costs. For example, capturing just half of under-utilized truckload capacity would cut truck emissions by 100 million tons per year (about 20% of U.S. emissions), and save more than $30 billion per year in diesel fuel expenditures.[2] And making use of intermodal transport such as truck to rail can reduce emissions by a whopping 75 percent.[3] 

“If just 10 percent of the freight that moves by truck moved by rail instead, fuel savings would exceed 800 million gallons per year, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by more than 9 million tons — equivalent to taking around 1.8 million cars off the road or planting 215 million trees.” - Association of American Railroads

Companies have both the power and a financial incentive to reduce their environmental impact from the movement of goods to market. We need all hands on deck from the business community to leverage these trends and build the momentum.

Addressing the climate impacts of transportation is crucial for climate justice, given the disproportionate burden on marginalized communities. The surge in U.S. freight emissions and the projected quadrupling of global freight emissions demand a reevaluation of our approach to moving goods. Sustainable practices, such as logistics optimization and transitioning to eco-friendly vehicles, not only curb emissions but also contribute to climate justice. Technologies available in the market and intermodal solutions present tangible opportunities to mitigate climate change impacts. Businesses, recognizing their power and financial incentive, play a pivotal role in driving positive change for both environmental sustainability and climate justice in the movement of goods.

Take Action

Companies making a commitment to reduce the climate impact of transportation will adopt practices such as measuring transportation greenhouse gas emissions, setting reduction targets and implementing practices such as adopting cleaner technologies, switching fuels, optimizing their logistics and employing intermodal strategies to increase the efficiency of shipping operations and reduce transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions.

Companies committing to reducing the climate impacts of transportation via the Climate Collaborative will be expected to complete an annual online questionnaire updating the Climate Collaborative on progress made toward the commitment. The questionnaire will be short and should not be burdensome to complete.

Here are some specific steps your company can take to move forward:

  • Develop a green transportation action plan to map the movement of your goods to market and identify opportunities to increase efficiency and decrease greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Develop performance metrics to track transportation efficiencies and establish both absolute and intensity-based targets for reducing carbon emissions. Implement systems for estimating the carbon footprint of your fleet or third party logistics fuel efficiencies and emission reductions.
  • Establish a method for tracking reduction of black carbon and other short-lived pollutants. Your company may want to consider participating in the Climate Collaborative’s short-lived pollutants commitment. Learn more here.


Access more resources to help support your transportation work

[1] The Carbon Footprint of Global Trade, ITF
[2] Green Freight Handbook – EDF.
[3] Freight Railroads Help Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions.



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