Wed 18 Feb 2015 – The intergovernmental organisation International Transport Forum (ITF) has projected that as international freight transport quadruples in volume by 2050, carbon emissions from airfreight will grow faster than those from road, rail or sea. The ITF estimates CO2 emissions from airfreight will rise from 150 million tonnes in 2010 to 767 million tonnes in 2050, an increase of 411% on a business as usual basis. Shifting trade patterns, with the North Pacific corridor surpassing the North Atlantic as the main trading route, will result in transport distances increasing by 12% across all modes. Overall, CO2 emissions from freight transport will grow by 290% by 2050 and freight will replace passenger traffic as the main source of CO2 emissions from surface transport.
In terms of freight volume, measured in tonne-kilometres, airfreight represented only 0.27% of all freight shifted globally in 2010, but its share is expected to increase to 0.36% by 2050 (see table below). ITF’s own International Freight Model estimates international trade related freight carried by air amounted to 191 billion tonne-kilometres in 2010, higher than ICAO’s figure of 158 billion tonne-kilometres.
Apart from airfreight, of the total international freight volume, 85% is currently carried by sea, 9% by road and the remainder by rail. Sea will continue to account for the bulk of freight transport in 2050 but its share is likely to decline to around 83% as a result of an increase in road freight.
Trade patterns are expected to shift geographically and due to rapid economic growth, mainly after 2030, Asia and Africa will face substantial increases in trade shares. Rising food demand, especially in these two continents, will prompt a massive increase in food volumes, says ITF. By 2050, China and Africa will receive almost 32% and 19% respectively of the total world food transport when measured in tonne-kilometres. The United States will remain the world’s major food supplier and by 2050, almost 38% of the food transported will originate from the US, followed by Europe (11%) and Brazil (8%).
Over the period 2010 to 2050, CO2 emissions related to international freight transport will grow by a factor of 3.9 in ITF’s baseline scenario. Road freight currently accounts for around 53% of the total and is likely to increase to 56% by 2050. ITF predicts air transport will increase its contribution to CO2 emissions by two percentage points. In contrast, sea freight’s share will fall from 37% to 32%. These changes, says ITF, will be driven by the increasing share of trade by road and air and also longer average haulage distances.
Regionally, or by trade corridor, the largest increases in CO2 emissions in absolute terms will take place in Asia and North Pacific, while in relative terms emissions are projected to grow most in Africa.
“The foreseeable increase in global freight represents an unprecedented challenge for the world’s transport systems,” said ITF Secretary-General José Viegas at the launch of the ITF Transport Outlook 2015, adding: “A quadrupling of freight emissions can seriously undermine climate change mitigation.”
With 54 member countries, the ITF is administratively integrated into the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) and acts as a strategic think tank for transport policy.
International Transport Forum
ITF Transport Outlook 2015
Growth of global trade-related freight and emissions to 2050 by transport mode (source: ITF):
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