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Methods for determining carbon footprint

In order to limit the consequences of climate change, the Paris Climate Agreement stipulates that global warming should not exceed 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the 21st century. This means that by 2050 the annual emission of greenhouse gases must be reduced by 60% compared to 1990. Participating countries have also agreed to strive for a maximum warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius.

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Strong climate target for transport and logistics

For the transport sector, which is still experiencing strong growth, this target means that by 2050 the CO2 emissions from transport and logistics will have to be reduced by 85 to 95% compared to 1990. Achieving this major goal requires innovative technologies and the resolution of challenging policy issues. With expertise in areas such as mobility, infrastructure, emissions, business operations and data analysis, TNO builds the necessary bridge between government and industry.

Carbon footprinting: an instrument for understanding CO2 emissions

In order to achieve the climate objectives, it is very important to take the right measures and to be able to properly assess their effects in advance. Carbon footprinting can help with this.

Carbon footprinting is an instrument that identifies the CO2 emissions from transport and logistics and assesses the effects of decarbonisation measures in advance. On an operational (micro) level, carbon footprinting enables logistics service providers to set up their process in such a way that it can be optimised in terms of both costs and CO2 emissions. But carbon footprinting can also be applied at a strategic (macro) level, helping governments to develop policies that contribute to reducing the CO2 emissions of transport and logistics.

There are different carbon footprinting methodologies. Various parties are also developing computing tools to determine the carbon footprint. These tools generally calculate the carbon footprint of logistics service providers on the basis of fuel or energy consumption and transport performance data.

TNO's contributions

TNO contributes to the development of several of these methodologies and tools.

In the Carbon Footprint of Freight Transport (COFRET) project, top scientists from European countries developed a broadly applicable methodology for determining greenhouse gas emissions in transport chains.

In LEARN (Logistics Emissions Accounting and Reduction Network) TNO, together with various international project partners, has applied carbon footprinting in practice. This has provided insight into what data is needed and how data from different companies should be combined.

In the Lean & Green programme, TNO, as an independent party, assessed and monitored the CO2 savings plans of companies. At Connekt's request, TNO has also identified the possibilities for harmonising a number of different carbon-footprinting methods and tools.

Longer term

In order to meet the climate objectives, carbon footprinting will be an important instrument in the coming years. The challenge is to find an incentive in the longer term that will prompt companies to switch, on a large scale, to more sustainable techniques, behaviour and logistics organisation, or to ensure that transport demand is reduced. This calls for measures, tools and concepts that may not yet fit into the current business models. With the theme of sustainable logistics at its heart, TNO uses its knowledge and innovative power to help bring about the necessary changes.

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