The Loadstar teams up with Smart Freight Centre to help reduce emissions in supply chains

Amsterdam, 3 December 2020 - By Sophie Punte, Executive Director, Smart Freight Centre.

Many things were postponed due to COVID-19, including the COP26 in Glasgow, which will now be held at the end of 2021. The one thing not put on hold though is climate change itself.

This week, Smart Freight Centre moderated a session on decarbonizing freight as part of the transport event En Route to COP26. Professor Alan McKinnon explained the 5 solutions to get to zero logistics emissions - energy source, efficiency, utilization, modes, and demand – which my colleague Bonne Goedhart coined as the “freight famous five” that companies can include in their Sustainable Logistics Roadmap. The company panel, including IKEA, Procter & Gamble, DP-DHL and FM Logistic, shared their climate actions across the board and see collaboration as the only way to succeed, but do expect clarity from government on the direction ahead.

I closed this session by seeking clarity on the COP26 itself. Niclas Svenningsen is the Manager for the Global Climate Action team in the UNFCCC Secretariat (“UN Climate Change”) and was very willing to shed some light on this topic. He explained that the Paris Agreement is a consensus agreement between 197 “Parties” or governments and was adopted at the 21st session of the “Conference of Parties” or COP on 12 December 2015. It is a global blueprint for how governments will work together to keep a global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and ideally below 1.5 degrees Celsius. Aside from mitigation, it also covers adaptation to climate change and financing. The fact that this was the Paris Agreement was only adopted at COP 21 shows how difficult it is to come to a global agreement!

Now these COPs, held every year, are described as one single meeting but in fact, a COP includes more than 1,000 different meetings, covering a plethora of different issues. Typically a COP has some 30,000 participants, including parties, observers, non-party stakeholders, media and UN staff.” COP24 in Katowice, Poland in 2018 was an important milestone after the adoption of the Paris Agreement because the detailed implementation rules, also called the “Katowice Rulebook,” was adopted there. The next COP26 in Glasgow fills some remaining gaps, most importantly agreeing on the market-based mechanisms to finance climate action. But really, the negotiations are over, what we now need is action.


The type and speed of climate action is determined at the country level, after all they signed the Paris Agreement. Each country as well as the EU27 collectively must submit a plan, called Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs, and all but 5 countries did so in 2015. Salient detail: only 15% of NDCs mentioned freight! Every 5 years these NDCs are updated, which explains the anticipation to COP26 – Climate Watch developed a great map to track countries’ NDCs. The NDC Partnership was established to support countries with their NDC improvement and implementation, chaired by a developed (currently the Netherlands) and developing (currently Costa Rica) country. Leading up to last year’s COP25, the host Chile announced the Climate Ambition Alliance that called for countries to be more ambitious with their NDCs. So far, 110 governments have pledged to be carbon neutral before 2050!

Obviously, governments cannot act alone. Niclas’ job is to manage the work of UN Climate Change with “non-Party” stakeholders, which basically includes everyone else but national governments. Governments decided to appoint two “High-Level Champions” to connect the work of governments with the many voluntary and collaborative actions taken by cities, regions, businesses, investors and civil society players. This set up is very clever: one is from the country hosting the previous COP and the other from the next host country. So currently, Gonzalo Muñoz from Chile and Nigel Topping from the United Kingdom are carrying the torch.

One of the things these High-Level Champions are responsible for is the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action (MP-GPA), which was established in 2016 to support Paris Agreement implementation through collaborative initiatives. It includes 26 transport initiatives that are coordinated by SLoCaT and the International Transport Forum (ITF). Smart Freight Centre is active in five of these and has a lead role in the UN-CCAC led Global Green Freight Action Plan to establish green freight programs around the world.

Under this partnership, 8 Climate Action Pathways were prepared in 2019 covering energy, human settlements, industry, land use, oceans and coastal zones, transport, water, and climate resilience. These are all being updated as we speak: the executive summary for transport is out, and the action table is released on 11 December. Tracking on progress is done in 3 ways: the Global Climate Action portal, the Yearbook of Global Climate Action and the Summary for Policy makers.

Now we’ve come to the last piece of the puzzle: the Race To Zero campaign. It was launched in June this year to give an extra boost to the Climate Ambition Alliance, and if you haven’t heard of this yet you must be living on another planet! Gonzalo and Nigel are living up to their promise as champions: 1,000+ businesses, 450+ cities, 20+ regions, 40+ investors, and 500+ universities have committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 at the latest. Collectively these actors now cover nearly 25% global CO2 emissions and over 50% GDP.

And as a final clarification, for those among you who have not had French in high school, “En Route to COP26” means “On the Way to COP26”!

Photo credit: Greg Rosenke