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Cargoes will go green

Railways retain their status as the most environmentally friendly mode of transport
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Transit of cargoes from China to Europe by rail remains the most environmentally friendly method of delivery along this route. According to the online CO2 emission meter developed by UTLC ERA, JSC (railway operator on the 1,520 mm gauge), rail transport produces almost five times fewer harmful emissions than sea transport, and 528 times fewer harmful emissions than air transport. In the context of growing demand for green modes of transport, environmental friendliness of railways, according to analysts' forecasts, will attract new cargoes.   

The CO2 emission meter by UTLC ERA, JSC enables estimation of the carbon footprint of rail transit transport through Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus in the service between China and Europe. It also compares this figure with data on other modes of transport - road, sea and aviation.

"Increasing attention is now paid to environmental issues throughout Eurasia, from China to Europe," notes a source at UTLC ERA, JSC. 

During the entire measurement period - since 2016 - direct air emissions from rail transport appear to be lower than those from alternative delivery methods. In January - December 2021, 692,500 TEUs (the equivalent of a 20-foot container) were transported by rail on the services of UTLC ERA, JSC, and 46,200 tons of CO2 were emitted into the atmosphere during fuel combustion. If this cargo had been delivered by sea, the figure would have reached 220,800 tons, or 4. 114 million tons if delivered by road, or 24. 4 million tons – by aircraft.

"The environmental value of rail transport is becoming a true vision for building socially responsible business on our continent. The railway could well become a symbol of the Glasgow Climate Change Conference, as we can confidently say that moving more and more freight to the rails is a crucial prerequisite for both achieving the European "green deal" and promoting the decarbonization of Eurasian logistics," says Alexei Grom, the General Director of UTLC ERA, JSC. 

Similarly to UTLC ERA, JSC, some transport companies are developing their own online meters to estimate the carbon footprint. For instance, Russian Railways' Customer Personal Account displays in real time the amount of emissions that did not enter the atmosphere because cargo was transported by rail rather than by road. In addition, shippers can assess the environmental friendliness of freight transportation on the selected route.

Rail Cargo Group has a similar meter showing how many emissions have been avoided thanks to greener rail transport. According to the company's official website, this figure is about 1.9 million tons of the CO2 equivalent per year.

Rail Cargo Group meter data are based on single shipment calculations using EcoTransIT-World (ETW), an application for calculating energy consumption and environmental emissions throughout the supply chain for various modes of transport, taking into account vehicle specifications, route and fuel consumption. 

"EcoTransIT World simulates the transportation system, including vehicle type, emission class, load factor, empty mileage factor, different fuel types, including biofuels and their feedstocks, and much more. The result is total emissions, including CO2 and exhaust emissions (NOx, SOx, NMHC, PM10)," explains Ralf Antes, Senior Product Manager in EcoTransIT World.

According to Ralph Antes, calculating emissions is becoming increasingly important on a global scale. Companies, he says, are striving to reduce emissions and set scientifically sound goals, so they need an emissions calculation that offers evaluation of their actions.

Attention to "green" logistics is confirmed by the ERAI portal's analytical review "Railways as a Green Alternative: Impact of the Environmental Agenda on the Modal Shift" published in November 2021. As the study shows, many shippers are integrating ESG principles (ESG means environmental, social and governance. - Ed.) These include accounting for direct and indirect emissions throughout the supply chain. These parameters have an increasing impact on decisions on the mode of delivery of goods, leading to a reorientation of cargo flows toward environmentally friendly modes of transport.

"Given the fact that the share of rail container traffic in the total volume of Eurasian transit in 2021 was already close to 5% (for comparison, in 2015 it was only 1%), the contribution to the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions and a lower negative impact on the environment will be more and more evident," emphasizes the source at UTLC ERA, JSC.

It should be recalled that the railways of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan have agreed to improve the environmental parameters of transportation and accelerate digitalization. In August 2021, the parties signed a memorandum on promoting the sustainable development of the transit potential and environmental safety of the railways of EAEU member states. The document refers to the key role of rail transport in implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals, including the reduction of the carbon footprint of the transport and logistics industry and improving energy efficiency. 

According to UTLC ERA, JSC, pilot projects will be implemented in the near future on the basis of the company's services to introduce technological innovations in the Eurasian space, taking into account the principles of transition to carbon-free railway logistics. For example, it is planned to test a single electronic consignment note in the "1520 field" in 2022.

As Alexander Klimanov, director of WWF Russia's Green Economy program, says, environmental friendliness can really become a competitive advantage for rail transport. The expert recommends paying attention not only to the reduction of negative emissions, but also to energy sources and environmental friendliness of transported products. "In light of the upcoming cross-border carbon regulation, this factor will be of great importance," notes Alexander Klimanov.

Maria Abdrimova

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