The top 5 transport and logistics stories in 2016

Clearer skies and bluer seas are on the horizon, as the aviation and shipping sectors vowed less emissions this year. Uber-style taxis gain legal recognition while driverless cars hit the road. These are the top 5 transport stories in 2016.

plane takes off vancouver
An airplane takes off from Vancouver airport. Global representatives at a recent International Civil Aviation Organization meeting recently agreed to an aviation-specific climate agreement. Image: Matthew Grapengieser, CC BY-SA 2.0

Cheaper airline tickets may have enabled almost everyone to fly, but carbon emissions from the aviation sector are growing more rapidly than any other sector as a result. Without intervention, the sector will contribute up to 22 per cent to total global emissions by 2050, a dramatic jump from its current share of just two per cent. 

Aviation does not feature in the Paris Agreement on climate change but this year the sector reached a landmark deal for future emissions from industry growth to become carbon neutral by 2020.

Demand for cleaner shipping, primarily from smog-choked China, is also putting pressure on the industry to cut its emissions. Norway leads the pledge to ban petrol cars in favour of cleaner electric vehicles, and driverless taxis hit the road in Singapore.

Here are the top 5 transport and logistics stories that made headlines this year:

1. Towards a more sustainable aviation and shipping sector

In 2010, the aviation industry started the discussions on capping its emissions by 2020 so that future growth will be carbon neutral. After six years of negotiations, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) inked the world’s first global emissions reduction scheme for the aviation sector this year.

The Carbon Offset and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) enables aviation companies to offset carbon emissions through the purchase of carbon credits, so that emissions will remain at 2020 levels despite the industry’s growth in the coming years.

According to The International Air Transport Association (IATA), the number of airline passengers will more than double by 2034 to 7.3 billion, a huge percentage of which will come from Asia Pacific. The CORSIA will begin trial for two years from 2021 to 2023 and will run a first stage of implementation from 2024 to 2026.

The shipping industry also saw a shift to less-polluting marine fuels this year. In China some ports including Shanghai, Yangtze River Delta, Shenzhen and Hong Kong, have started requiring the use of lower-sulphur marine fuels in ships this year.

The International Maritime Organisation, a specialised UN agency responsible for regulating shipping, also held a crucial meeting this year on plans to expand the lower-sulphur marine fuel requirement from China to all ports in the world by 2020 or 2025.

2. Petrol cars on a dead-end road?

Norway announced it will phase out petrol cars by 2025, paving the way for 100 per cent of Norwegian cars to run on clean energy within the next decade. Following this announcement several other European countries unveiled similar initiatives including Germany, which passed a resolution this year to ban diesel and gasoline-powered vehicles by 2030.

Athens, Madrid, Mexico City and Paris also announced this year a landmark ban on diesel cars and vans as part of their commitment to climate action, and by extension, to lowering pollution levels.

3. Singapore ramps up on EV and AV

Singapore is aiming to become a hub for electric vehicle (EV) and autonomous vehicle (AV) technology in Asia. This year, the city-state unveiled its first EV car-sharing programme, BlueSG. The little red dot will be home to the world’s second largest EV fleet, where residents will have access to 125 EVs and 250 charging points by 2017.

By 2020, all housing towns in the city-state will be able to share 1,000 EVs and 2,000 charging points, positioning it as a regional hub for sustainable mobility.

Singapore also made headlines this year for being the first country in the world to roll out a driverless taxi system. Self-driving taxis by AV carmaker nuTonomy will soon be servicing Singaporeans.

Early in the year, Bloomberg New Energy Finance published a report that said EVs will occupy a 35 per cent share of global new car sales by 2040, owing to declining prices of storage batteries. 

The report said that in 10 years, EVs will be cheaper than petrol vehicles and will revolutionise the transport sector in more dramatic ways than governments and fossil fuel companies have initially thought.

3. Solar Impulse completes historic journey

Solar Impulse, the first solar-powered flight, made history when it completed its journey around the world this year. Piloted by Bertrand Piccard, the Solar Impulse landed safely back in Abu Dhabi in July where its journey began in March last year.

Solar Impulse covered some 42,000 km, taking in four continents, three seas and two oceans in its 17-stage journey. Piccard said on arriving in Abu Dhabi: “The future is clean. The future is you. The future is now. Let’s take it further.”

4. Car-sharing speeds ahead

In November, smog-choked China gave the green light to online ride-hailing apps and established legal guidelines in terms of driver qualification, fare schemes and fleet age.

China’s main ride-hailing platform Didi Chuxing and US company Uber, which also has operations in China, welcomed the move saying this reflects positively on the Chinese government’s regard for car-hailing and the sharing economy to reduce air pollution hazards and achieve a more sustainable planet.

Earlier in the year, the International Transport Forum (ITF) reported that consumers benefit from ride-hailing apps, and urged countries where debates are still ongoing on how to regulate this emerging sector to make consumers the priority in discussions.

Further, the Paris-based OECD-linked body highlighted in the report titled “App-Based Ride and Taxi Services: Principles for Regulation” said that traditional taxi companies will still be important, but they should also learn how to innovate to meet consumers’ needs better.

The ITF also published a report this year which highlighted that replacing traditional buses with shared buses and taxis can reduce social inequality in cities.

5. The rise of sustainable transport

The United Nations concluded this year its inaugural conference on sustainable transport where countries aspiring to implement a sustainable transport system can receive policy and financial backing to do so.

Enshrined within the ‘Ashgabat Statement’ are actions needed to be taken towards a sustainable transport, which include mobilising trillions of dollars in investments and implementing legal, regulatory and governance frameworks. All modes of transportation were discussed, including road, rail, aviation, ferry and maritime.

This story is part of our Year in Review series, which looks at the top stories that shaped the business and sustainability scene in each of our 12 categories.

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