Virtual 2021: Charting net-zero emissions in transport

For many transport industry segments, business models will need to change to meet the reduced impact or net-zero targets demanded by regulators, investors, and customers. This will look different per segment—for aviation, carbon offsetting may play a large role; for shipping, low emission vessels and port operations will be important; for rail, government subsidies may be required to encourage use; and for road, how do we plan for EVs and AVs.

On September 15, 2021, GII hosted a peer-to-peer roundtable discussion with senior leaders from Europe, North America and the UK, representing the aviation, rail, and shipping segments, to explore the likely imminent shifts required to reach net zero. The key themes that surfaced from this roundtable are summarized below:

  • Get started now. The technology is already in place to have a large impact on emissions and begin the journey to net zero across transport modes. Incremental improvements—for example, alternative aviation fuels, rail electrification, or electric vehicle charging networks—can have a powerful effect, demonstrating that progress is both possible and can be beneficial to wider corporate and societal objectives.
  • Take an integrated perspective. Applying a systems approach and bringing together the full value chain across transport modes will help prevent the mistakes of the past—like prioritizing the wrong transport modes for investment—when the industry operated in silos.  This approach will help identify and unlock potential improvements through greater collaboration and using a multi-modal lens to achieve system-wide reductions in emissions.
  • Use the power of convening. Transport hubs, such as airports and ports, have an important responsibility to ‘convene’ and coordinate actions across the full value chain. Bringing together all the key stakeholders is a critical step to create an integrated net-zero emissions plan across industry sectors. For example, a large airport could bring together as many as 50 airlines, fuel suppliers, ground handlers, airport facility operators, and government to align on a plan.
  • Leverage policy. Reaching full net zero by 2050, or earlier, will require widespread adoption of new technologies and commercial models. The right policy and incentives from governments will create a viable pathway for these new technologies and models, through a mixture of mandates and price support mechanisms.
  • Provide transparency to consumers. Individual and corporate interest in transport emissions continues to grow. Through increasing the transparency of environmental impacts to customers, transport companies can help consumers make informed decisions to drive change. In the future, green credentials are likely to be an important source of competitive advantage, and will be a driver of modal shifts.