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Logistics, the Environment and Sustainability - A Conflict of Interests - A CILT(UK) Young Professionals Event: Thursday 6 March 2008 at the Airth Castle Hotel.

The Young Professionals held a one day conference titled "Logistics, the Environment and Sustainability - A Conflict of Interests" at the Airth Castle Hotel on 6 March 2008. The event began with an introduction from Alison Ross, the event Chair and as followed by John Fender, the Scottish Region Chairman, who in his welcome to the delegates, pointed out that many challenges are faced by transport and logistics in the future as concern over the environment grows and that it is the Young Professionals who will have to seek the solutions and implement them in time to come.

The Conference was then addressed by Stewart Stevenson, MSP, the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change who said that the Scottish Government wished to both promote economic growth across Scotland and reduce emissions by 80% by 2050. This presents some real challenges and transport and logistics has a key role to play. Scotland is already experiencing climate change with the average temperature increasing by 1 degree Celsius over the last 40 years and there is now less snowfall but more rain. Whilst emissions of greenhouse gases are down by 10% between 1995 and 2005, the highest emitters are the energy industry, transport and businesses. Since 1990 these three sectors have all seen an increase in their emissions.

Stewart Stevenson, MSP addressing the Young Professionals.d

Stewart Stevenson, MSP addressing the Young Professionals.

© John G. Fender, 2011

Business can make significant reductions in their emissions, by working in partnership with the government and other organizations. Logistics and Transport can achieve significant reductions and projects such as the Borders Rail link will bring a significant reduction in carbon emissions. This project alone is estimated to deliver a reduction of around 450,000 tonnes of carbon emissions. It is the Scottish Governments ambition to make Scotland a world leader in carbon reduction and it's targets are twice as ambitions as those of the rest of the UK. This is, Mr. Stevenson pointed out, not about competition, but about opportunities. Actions must be taken now to deliver long term solutions. There has been good progress, but there is still much to do.

Transport is the bedrock of logistics and all modes need to look at what they can do, for example, making more use of alternative fuels. The Scottish Government has developed a range of freight grants to promote the reduction of businesses carbon footprints and this has led to the introduction of new inter-modal freight services that have meant that many lorry movements have been eliminated, estimated at around 80 million miles a year. Another example is the construction of a 12 km overground conveyor to move coal in Ayrshire instead of using lorries. This is a far more energy efficient way of moving coal. The Scottish Government also supports greater use of public transport, an example being the introduction of trams in Edinburgh.

The conference next heard from Dr. Debbie Ross or JMP Consulting who spoke on "Climate Change and Transport - Measure, Monitor and Minimise".Dr. Ross explained how the effects of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and showed some examples of the effects this has on the climate. Scientific opinion is 90% certain that the increase in global temperatures is due to man-made carbon dioxide emissions. If the average temperature of the earth increases by 2 degrees Celsius the results could be catastrophic, for example, agriculture would fail in China, India and North America. There would be more extreme weather events and there is no valid reason not to take action now to prevent this happening. Transport is a significant producer of carbon dioxide emissions and other greenhouse gases, such as nitrous oxide.

Ways of reducing the impact range from a reduction in the use of fossil fuels by using alternative fuels and technologies to increasing fuel efficiency. The move to more sustainable forms of transport need to be encouraged and transport should be included in the emissions trading scheme. Business can help by planning their locations to enable access by sustainable transport. Travel plans can make a significant difference to a business. Even simple measures, such as replacing a conventional light bulb with a low energy one can yield a saving of up to 80 kg of carbon a year.

David Morton, of Menzies Distribution spoke on "Carbon Footprinting - Eco-Nomics versus Economics" and began by providing a background to Menzies Distribution's current business. He explained how the newspaper and magazine distribution system works and how Menzies Distribution fits into it. He pointed out that in order to meet customer expectations, around 1,500 vehicles are needed, operating some 93,000 miles per day. The business operates on a 24 hour basis. Carbon footprinting is a method of quantifying the impact a business has on the environment and seeks to measure the impact each activity a business undertakes has on the environment. However, there is a balance to be struck and in the case of Menzies Distribution, the company is operating in a mature market, declining sales of newspapers and magazines does not mean that there will be a corresponding reduction in emissions, due to the need to maintain the service to retailers.

So the question is why footprint? There are a number of reasons, including shareholder interest, and expectations from retailers. There are also financial issues and footprinting can show where savings can be made. When Menzies Distribution began the process they looked at their position within the supply chain and utilised information from various sources to build a spreadsheet model. The various costs were taken into account, for example the cost of paper, packaging materials, the costs of distribution and the costs of returns and waste. From this ideas of how to reduce carbon emissions could be looked at. These include reducing vehicle miles by consolidation, and improved efficiency by changing the vehicle fleet. Cutting electricity use or switching to greener electricity has benefits. The process also looks at such items as the cover mounts on magazines and now publishers are looking at carbon footprints.

The Green Logistics Project was the title of the presentation of Dr. Julia Edwards of the Logistics Research Centre, Heriot Watt University. Dr. Edwards outlined the various carbon dioxide reduction targets set by the EU. These are 20 per cent by 2020 and 60 per cent by 2050, compared with the the Scottish government's target of 80 per cent by 2050. In the 1990 put a produced 162,000,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide and in 2006 produced 153,000,000 tonnes. The target is 65,000,000 tonnes in 2050. Within the EU carbon dioxide emissions from transport have increased by 34%. In the UK, domestic rate accounts for 6% of carbon dioxide emissions and all transport accounts for 20 per cent of the total. Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Green Logistics Project is aims to integrate research, engage industry and policy makers and review previous research. The project has 12 modules covering a range of topics.

Work being undertaken includes looking at the value of goods in the economy and the various environmental impacts, the modal split of freight and the supply chain structure, as well as vehicle utilisation and fuel management and efficiency. The study looks at what the trends will be in 2020 and looks at the extent that trends will vary between sectors. On interesting statistic is that the average length of a freight journey was increasing up to 2001 and since then it has been declining. The key question is why? There are a number of reasons being looked at, including the high costs of fuel, centralisation, online retailing and even the effects of congestion.

Online shopping has grown and this is changing the way goods reach consumers. The different forms of delivery are being looked at. The study is focussing on groups of products, such as books, small electrical appliances, large electrical appliances, groceries and clothing. Full details of the study can be found at the Green Logistics website (www.greenlogistics.org). As part of this presentation, a carbon workshop followed and led to some interesting discussion afterwards.

The afternoon session began with a presentation from John Barclay of WPS Environmental who looked at Carbon Reduction and what it means for businesses. He pointed out that companies generally refer to carbon dioxide and not carbon. Corporate responsibility has part to play and shareholder pressure is making companies look at their carbon emissions. Some companies are now labelling their products with the amount of carbon emissions that the product is responsible for. In the longer term most products will be labelled this way.

Some local authorities have introduced standards for sustainable buildings and new developments will have to meet those requirements, for example, in Edinburgh all new major projects must have up to 20% of their energy requirements met from on site generation from sustainable sources. This could be be by wind powered generators or solar panels. Another aspect of carbon reduction is consumer driven and people are beginning to turn to low energy and low carbon producing products. It is likely that we will see another shift in buying, along the lines we saw with the demand for organic produce. People will make choices and suppliers will need to cater for those choices.

An incentive to businesses to reduce their carbon emissions is that of cost. In most instances, reducing carbon emissions is a sound platform for investment strategies, for example, reducing costs through the use of low energy lighting. This means that the money saved can be used for other investment purposes. The Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC), a new emissions trading scheme, is due to start in January 2010 with all allowances being sold a fixed price. From 2013 allowances will be allocated through auctions with a diminishing number of credits available over time and companies will be able to buy EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) allowances to comply with their emissions cap - this would be a buy-only link to effectively create a price ceiling for credits in the CRC. The idea behind the scheme is that the polluter pays.

The CRC will be mandatory and will be based on auctions of emissions permits. This is aimed at being revenue neutral for the exchequer and auction revenue will be recycled to the participants. The CRC will target energy user emissions outside the EU ETC and the scheme is aimed at being as simple as possible. A workshop on calculating carbon footprints for buildings was included as part of the presentation and this showed those present how to undertake the task. It was clear that it is a complex process, taking many different factors into account, notwithstanding the energy consumption of the building itself.

The next item on the agenda was a presentation by Keith Evans of Arup Associated on "Dongtan: Logistics for a Sustainable City". Dongtan is located on the third largest island in China at the mouth of the Yangtze River and covers an area of 86 square km. Part of the island is a wetland of global importance, but the development will occupy only one third of the site with the remaining land retained for agriculture and used to create a buffer zone of "managed" wetland between the city and the "natural" wetland. Arup has developed the plans for the the Shanghai Industrial Investment Corporate (SIIC). New developments are needed to house Chinas rapidly growing population and current development is ecologically unsustainable.

This fact has led to the project to build a sustainable city that is practically carbon neutral and the first phase will house around 80,000 people. Dongtan will consists of three villages, with the initial phase for up to 10 000 people completed by 2010. The city will have green "corridors" of public space and is designed to attract employment across all social and economic demographics.

One of the innovative features is that all deliveries to the city will be made to one central location, from where local deliveries will be made. This will reduce vehicle movements and the associated emissions. Similarly the city will have an underground waste management system. Recycling will be a key feature and the target is that only 10% of waste goes to landfill. The city will generate it's own energy from wind, solar, bio-fuel and recycled city waste and public transport will be powered by clean technologies, such as hydrogen fuel cells. All of these measures will lead to a carbon neutral city.

The final part of the conference was a presentation by Clare Bottle on the "Pros and Cons of Biodiesel for Goods Vehicles". Clare began her presentation with a short history of diesel and pointed out that the use of biodiesel had been predicted in 1912 by Rudolph Diesel, inventor of the diesel engine. Next, Clare looked at the formation of crude oil and briefly examined the problems facing us with dwindling supplies of crude oil. However, figures of current reserves are unreliable and total world reserves can only be guessed at.

Apart from the spectre of running out of oil, climate change is a key driver towards increasing use of biodiesel, as is the rising price of oil Biodiesel is seen as being more environmentally friendly and by 2010, UK legislation will require all diesel sold to include 5% biodiesel. Biodiesel can be made from a range of oils, including vegetable oil, animal fats and oils, and waste cooking oil, but is more commonly made from oil crops such as rapeseed, palm or soya bean. The process of converting these to biodiesel is called transesterification.

This process requires the reaction of a triglyceride (fat/oil) with an alcohol to form esters and glycerol. A triglyceride has a glycerine molecule as its base with three long chain fatty acids attached. During the esterification process, the triglyceride is reacted with alcohol in the presence of a catalyst, usually a strong alkaline like sodium hydroxide. The alcohol reacts with the fatty acids to form the mono-alkyl ester, or biodiesel and crude glycerol. These are then separated and the biodiesel is purified to remove excess alcohols before it can be used for fuel.

Clare then looked as the sources of oils that can be converted into biofuels, The most common source is currently oilseed rape and around 84% of the world current production of biodiesel is based on this crop. Used frying oil is another source, but this can be acidic and needs to be cleaned before being converted to biodiesel. One promising source is algae which has a much higher output per acre yielding potentially around 6,500 gallons of biodiesel per annum , compared with 127 gallons per acre per annum for oilseed rape. The presentation was rounded off with a short debate on the merits of biodiesel and there was some lively discussion.

Report by John Fender.

Download the presentations (pdf format): Note: These are large files and will take a while to download.
Speech by Stewart Stevenson, MSP
The Biodiesel Debate by Clare Bottle.
Carbon Auditing the Transport Supply Chain
Carbon Fotprinting: Eco-Nomics v. Economics
The Green Logistics Project
The Dongtan Eco-Demonstrator City
Climate Change & Transport. Measure. Monitor. Minimise.
WSP Energy & Environmental.

 

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