A new report from Climateworks Centre finds that Australia would be on track to cut more than half of freight emissions by implementing already available solutions in short-haul road freight.

International trends, technology shifts and national momentum show that it is time to move past thinking of freight as ‘hard to abate’. Solutions are available now to decarbonise short-haul freight and technology solutions for long-haul freight are not far away.

The report, Delivering freight decarbonisation: Strategies for reducing Australia’s transport emissions, shows that road freight is responsible for the vast majority of Australia’s freight emissions. And decarbonising road freight would go a long way in helping Australia achieve its current climate targets. 

Given current trends, road freight is likely to pick up much of the freight growth in coming years. If there is no change to the way road freight is carried across the country, growing freight activity will lead to an absolute increase in emissions. This would likely pose a major challenge to Australia achieving its climate targets.

Climateworks recommends a two-pronged approach to cut emissions in road freight. First, implement the opportunities and solutions that are already available in short-haul freight. 

And second, take actions now that enable a smoother transition towards emerging solutions and scale existing solutions in long-haul freight.

‘By implementing the solutions for short-haul now and planning for long-haul decarbonisation, it is possible to not only make a significant headway on reducing transport emissions but also make the transition more just and equitable for the thousands of small-to-medium businesses, drivers and operators in the freight and logistics business,’ said Dechen Dolker, a Project Manager on the Climateworks Cities team and the report’s lead author.

The report also highlights ways government can support industry through a period of short-term technological uncertainty and adoption. This is needed to decarbonise long-haul road freight where technology is not market-ready. Government can conduct a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis across different fuels, technologies and modes to find the solutions that work best in the Australian context.  

This report surveys the landscape of freight policy in Australia and globally amongst similar economies; it identifies policies and opportunities to decarbonise the sector. The report puts forward 8 recommendations for government with solutions that go well beyond zero-emissions trucks.

There have been efforts to decarbonise freight in Australia for some time. Now, given global momentum, there is an opportunity to build on past efforts and to develop a coordinated, national approach to freight decarbonisation.

‘Freight will be an important component of Australia’s overall transport decarbonisation strategy and implementing solutions, many of them available now, will help companies and industries that rely on freight operate more efficiently; and it will help Australia meet its climate targets and commitments,’ said Helen Rowe who leads Climateworks’ transport program.

‘Putting decarbonisation at the heart of national and state transport strategies would kickstart emissions reduction in freight and provide greater certainty across the freight sector.’