The latest Working Paper from the Economic & Social Research Institute (ESRI) has revealed that reducing energy consumption and emissions from freight transport plays an important role in climate change mitigation. However, there remains a need for enhanced policymaking and research to explore a low carbon future of freight transport.
This research establishes a freight transport model to simulate transport demand (tonne kilometre), energy consumption and emissions. The model incorporates macroeconomic factors, policy indicators, technological characteristics, detailed profiles of the vehicle stock and travel distances, and behavioural parameters with discrete based choices.
This model is applied to the freight transport sector in Ireland with scenarios running out to 2050. The results show that overall freight transport demand increases substantially from 2015 to 2050. Economy-wide climate policies (i.e. carbon tax) and high fuel prices result in modest reductions in energy consumption and CO2 emissions in freight transport, compared to a baseline.
Sectoral measures, such as European CO2 emission performance standards, that aim to improve new vehicle fuel efficiency/emission rates can potentially lead to significant reductions, but such measures face a lag in greening the goods vehicle stock in the short/mid term, and uncertainties in policy compliance and technical barriers in the long run. Notably, in spite of few commercially mature vehicle technologies, adoption of biofuel and alternative freight vehicles are expected to bring additional reductions in future energy consumption and emissions. In all, for a transition to a low carbon future for freight transport, a comprehensive and dynamic policy agenda should be developed to promote low or zero emission vehicles, especially for heavy goods vehicles.