Construction of effective national and international transport networks is essential in supporting socio-economic development, meeting ever-increasing demand for public mobility and the movement of goods. The rising cost of energy, increasing congestion and concerns about environmental impact have all grown to such an extent that, for any transport sector company, demonstrating progress towards the concept of ‘sustainable transport’ has become a core business imperative.
Key challenges and opportunities
Minimising greenhouse gas emissions
Transport systems account for around a third of world energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. All transport companies are therefore under pressure to make a contribution to reducing emissions.
Approximately three-quarters of these emissions come from road vehicles. Aviation is responsible for 12 per cent of CO2 emissions from all transport sources, and two per cent of worldwide CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use, according to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This could reach three per cent by 2050 (IPCC 2007), although there are also additional climate change impacts associated with flying at high altitudes.
Currently, 95 per cent of transport energy comes from petroleum, although electric trams and trains are becoming common and natural gas is also used. Biofuels are currently a less widely used technology. The aviation sector is exploring the possibilities of using biofuels, although trials are being delayed due to low availability of the feedstocks necessary to produce suitable biofuels. Electric cars are another technology with the potential to reduce transport CO2 emissions, depending on the source of the electricity.
Aircraft entering today's fleets are 70 per cent more fuel-efficient than they were 40 years ago, and aircraft operations have become 20 per cent more fuel-efficient over the past 10 years. The implementation of the Single European Sky initiative would bring major enhancements in air traffic management leading to efficiency gains of six to 12 per cent. Future improvements in airline operations (through single engine taxiing, reduction of weight in cabin services and so on), could further reduce fuel-burn by between two and six per cent
The term ‘green transport’ is often used as a greenwash marketing technique which is now prompting legal challenges. Norway's consumer ombudsman has targeted automakers who claim that their cars are "green", "clean" or "environmentally friendly". Lifecycle analysis of vehicles is inherently complex, but has been explored by many leading manufacturers.
The world population is set to increase to more than eight billion by 2030, by which time more than 70 per cent of the global population will be living in cities, compared to 50 per cent today.
An average US urban dweller uses 24 times more energy annually for private transport than a Chinese urban resident, and almost four times as much as a European urban dweller. These differences are closely linked to the rates of walking, cycling, and public transport use and to features of the city including urban density and urban design.
Social factors relating to urban transport modes range from health problems, social cohesion and the needs of persons with reduced mobility and families with children. While many of these factors are outside the control of most single companies, there is an increasing expectation that companies will seek to influence government and other stakeholders on issues such as public transportation development, and that companies should continue to innovate by developing new technologies that enable individuals to make more sustainable choices.
Competition for land can be a significant issue in countries with high population densities, particularly for new road building and rail projects. Concerns include blighting of property values and the nuisance associated with noise and air emissions. Although air travel has a relatively small land footprint compared to road and rail, the development of new airports can become a flash point of confrontation between developers and campaigning organisations.
In many developing countries, the construction of major ports and harbours continues, which has a significant influence on the pattern of economic development. Such infrastructure can be particularly vulnerable to the impacts of a changing climate, not least through rising sea levels.
Our extensive experience and knowledge of sustainability issues in the transport sector has been built up over more than a decade. In that time, we have worked with many major transport companies worldwide. For example, we have:
- advised Airbus in the UK on the development of a corporate responsibility management and communications programme, including creation of governance arrangements, policies and communications
- provided independent assurance of the annual CR or sustainability reports produced by leading players including First Group and British Airways
- helped General Motors develop its corporate responsibility report
- supported Toyota Motors North America in the development of its sustainability reports, and Toyota Motor Sales in the creation of greenhouse gas emissions foot-printing for its operations.