Around 75% of European cargo transport operations in terms of ton-kilometers are performed by trucks, which, in turn, entail massive environmental and societal impacts. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, road freight was projected to increase by around 40% by 2030 and by little over 80% by 2050. To support the greening of cargo operations, the European Green Deal calls for a substantial part of the inland freight traffic to shift away from road towards cleaner modes such as rail, inland waterways and short-sea shipping. The subsequent Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy stipulates that rail freight traffic should increase by 50% by 2030 and double by 2050, whereas transport by inland waterways and short sea shipping should increase by 25% by 2030 and by 50% by 2050.
In this context, the European Commission has pledged to substantially revamp the framework for multimodal transport by revising the Combined Transport Directive, among other instruments. The scarcity of transhipment infrastructure, and of inland multimodal terminals, in particular, would need to be addressed, and missing links in multimodal infrastructure closed. Moreover, work is underway to establish a common framework for the harmonised measurement of transport and logistics-related greenhouse gas emissions based on global standards. This stands to empower consumers and businesses to make more sustainable delivery and transport choices through the provision of adequate information on the climate footprint as well as on the available alternatives of their deliveries.
Inspired by the discussions at the 8th Florence Intermodal Forum, this policy brief reflects on the various measures to green European cargo operations, with a focus on boosting the share of multimodal freight and creating a common carbon accounting framework.
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