Decarbonizing urban logistics: perspectives for low- and middle-income countries

What initiatives abate urban logistics’ carbon emissions more efficiently and effectively? Numerous theoretical and practical studies address the challenge of reducing carbon emissions from the logistics sector while ensuring the flow of goods to highly urbanized areas.

In a position paper, Fransoo and Mora-Quiñones present and discuss initiatives seeking to abate urban logistics carbon emissions in the domains of:

  • reducing the demand for freight transport or moderating/arresting its growth;
  • shifting freight to lower-carbon transportation modes;
  • optimizing vehicle loading;
  • increasing vehicle energy efficiency;
  • switching to lower-carbon energy sources.

The solutions they discuss range from regulatory to operational and technological. They adopt a holistic approach underlining that urban transport is strongly related to the choices made in the logistics operation, including aspects like consolidation and deconsolidation in the supply chain and how cities may leverage public space to support logistics operations. By conducting a literature review, they illustrate the advantages and disadvantages of each initiative, case studies, and practical recommendations. They find that regulatory measures yield better performance in carbon emissions abatement potential and ease of implementation.

They raise awareness of the urgency to decarbonize urban logistics globally to meet the goals of the climate agenda. They show how urbanization will bring more stress to the logistics sector, particularly in the developing world. They provide numerous alternatives that can be deployed and combined to reduce carbon emissions from the logistics sector while ensuring the growing flow of goods to urban settlements. 

One important matter is that there is no “one size fits all.” For example, Mexico City is different from Bangkok, and Chongqing’s learning may not apply much to Lagos. Therefore, having a fundamental understanding of the various interventions and relating this to the specific geography, economy, governance, and logistics characteristics of a city is critical to evaluating the success of governmental policies. 

Source: Fransoo, J. C., & Mora-Quiñones, C. A. (2021). Decarbonizing Urban Logistics: Perspectives for Low-and Middle-Income Countries. Available at SSRN 3943360.

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