Climate change and the freight industry

What is climate change?

Climate change is the altering of a region’s long-term weather patterns, which can become warmer, colder, wetter or drier.

What is global warming?

Global warming is the average increase in the Earth's surface temperature. An increase in temperature may alter rainfall patterns, increase sea level, and impact on plants, wildlife and humans.

In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC), the world’s authoritative body on climate change, concluded irrevocably that the increase in global average temperatures since the 20th century has been due to manmade greenhouse gas concentrations.

What are greenhouse gases?

Greenhouse gasses exist in the Earth’s atmosphere and absorb infra-red radiation from the sun’s rays. They act as a heat blanket and maintain the Earth’s surface temperature.

While some greenhouse gasses occur naturally - such as carbon dioxide and methane - human activity has added manmade greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere, resulting in the ‘greenhouse effect’ and an increase in the Earth’s temperature.

Carbon dioxide is widely regarded as the most important greenhouse gas that needs to be reduced. Other greenhouse gases are converted to carbon dioxide equivalent in terms of measurement and reporting.

How does climate change affect freight?

The UK Government has pressed ahead with hard hitting-legislation and ambitious targets to ensure that businesses and communities work towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

So far, there have been no sector specific targets, however there is requirement and pressure from Government, shareholders and customers for freight companies to contribute to targets.

The transport sector makes around 21% of UK domestic greenhouse gas emissions with freight transport accounting for around a third of these emissions.

Breakdown of transport emissions by mode














The UK's approach to climate change

Here are some key stats that reflect the Government's approach to climate change.

  • The UK Climate Change Act was passed in 2008, the first of its kind in the world
  • 34 per cent greenhouse gas reduction target to be met by 2020 against 1990 levels
  • 80 per cent greenhouse gas reduction target to be met by 2050 against 1990 levels
  • Scotland’s Climate Change Act was passed in 2009, with a tougher greenhouse gas reduction target of 42 per cent by 2020 against 1990 levels
  • Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation was launched in 2007 to set targets for an increasing percentage of renewable fuels such as biofuel to make up conventional fuel from suppliers
  • UK’s first mandatory reporting scheme, the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme was introduced in 2010 covering energy consumption but not transport emissions

Did you know?

  • There has been a 0.74°C increase in average global temperatures over the last 100 years
  • Sea levels have risen over 40mm in the last 100 years
  • The 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 1997
  • Arctic ice is rapidly disappearing, and the region may have its first completely ice-free summer by 2040