It has been a few years now since I heard Robert Lyman, at the time director general, environmental affairs, for Transport Canada, say that at a transport industry conference. But I remember it like i...
It has been a few years now since I heard Robert Lyman, at the time director general, environmental affairs, for Transport Canada, say that at a transport industry conference. But I remember it like it happened yesterday. It stood out at the time because Lyman’s directness was quite contrary to the vanilla-like remarks journalists learn to expect from bureaucrats. And his remark has stayed with me since because I thought it rather prophetic of things to come for the transportation industry.
In fact, the signals that this is coming to pass are already all around us.
Just this month we reported that Quebec is increasing the tax on diesel fuel sold in the province by 0.9 cents per litre as part of its plan to tackle greenhouse gas emissions. The so-called green tax is aimed at helping the province meet its Kyoto targets. Expect more provinces to follow Quebec’s example with similar or other initiatives. Even in the US, which refuses to sign the Kyoto Protocol, states and municipalities fed up with president George Bush’s inept handling of the global warming issue are pressing ahead with their own greenhouse gas reduction initiatives. The result over time will be a carbon-constrained economy and transportation will be a focal point.
We simply can’t escape the fact that transportation activities generated more than one-quarter of Canada’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2004 and accounted for 28% of their growth from 1990 to 2004, during which time GHG emissions from transportation increased 30%, the equivalent of almost 45 million tonnes.
Statistics Canada’s comprehensive report Human Activity and the Environment directly fingers the growing use of heavy duty trucks to move goods for increasing GHG emissions. From 1990 to 2003, the amount of freight carried by the for-hire trucking industry grew nearly three times faster (75%) than all other modes combined (up a collective 27% over the same period).
Trucking may indeed be getting blamed for its own success; there were about 32% more tractor trailers registered in 2005 than in 2000, and the number of straight trucks was up 12%. But its future growth will be jeopardized unless the industry can get a handle on its GHG emissions.
Not only will there be pressure from government to reduce trucking’s GHG emissions but also from shippers. Energy efficiency and environmental impact are hot topics in the market place and will start to have an impact on the bottom line. Companies who get aggressive with their “green” plans, get noticed.
A growing number of companies, however, are coming to realize that to achieve their environmental goals they need to look beyond their own facilities and analyze their environmental management in terms of the entire supply chain. And, of course, the transport of raw materials and finished products to market has too significant an impact on a supply chain’s footprint to be ignored.
The last couple of months have shown clear indication of where things are headed.
* In August, Dole Food Co., the world’s largest producer and distributor of fruits and vegetables, announced plans to make its banana and pineapple supply chain carbon neutral by working to wipe out the emissions from the fruits’ production, packing, transport and distribution to European and North American markets.
* In September Dell announced its intention to make the entirety of its digital empire carbon-neutral.
* In February, Lee Scott, chief executive officer of Wal-Mart unveiled “Sustainability 360” – a company-wide emphasis on sustainability extending beyond Wal-Mart’s direct environmental footprint to engage, among others, its service suppliers. This month Wal-Mart’s much-publicized supply chain scorecard, which will rate its supply chain suppliers according to their environmental impact, goes into effect. Poor performers are at risk of being dropped by the world’s largest retailer, .
The shift towards a carbon-constrained economy is unavoidable. Companies forward-thinking enough to start reducing their emissions now, will be the ones to benefit. I urge you to read our special supplement “Green to Gold” on sustainable transportation practices. I also encourage you to attend the Environmental Summit I will be hosting at CITT’s annual conference in Quebec City this November 8.