12 Jun 2024, 13:15
Sören Amelang

Shift to electric trains and ships is key to climate-friendly freight transport – agency

Clean Energy Wire

Decarbonising the freight transport sector will require a shift from planes and trucks to electric trains and ships, according to Germany’s environment agency (UBA). “As much transport as possible should be shifted from lorries and aircraft to trains and (inland) ships, as these modes of transport are significantly more energy efficient,” allowing maximum use of renewable energy, UBA said in a report. “In order to achieve greenhouse gas-neutral, resilient, low-emission, affordable and intergenerationally-just freight transport by 2045, it is important that freight transport is further and comprehensively electrified,” UBA stated. “This requires battery-electric drives for lorries and inland waterway vessels, overhead lines for railways and - where appropriate - for roads, and fuels generated with the help of renewable electricity in international maritime and air transport.

Germany aims to become climate-neutral by 2045, and the agency sees little space for the use of synthetic fuels in its vision for an environmentally friendly freight by that date. “Although electricity-based fuels (so-called e-fuels) are low in emissions, they require a lot of energy to produce,” the report said. “Electricity-based fuels in freight transport should primarily be used where the direct use of renewable electricity in battery-electric drives is not possible. This applies, for example, to international maritime transport and air freight.”

Freight transport accounts for around a third of the German transport sector's total greenhouse gas emissions and is growing much faster than passenger transport, increasing the challenge of decarbonisation. UBA said one of the central levers to achieve climate neutrality is transport avoidance – for example via more local production, long-living products, and circular economy approaches at a regional level. “We can all play our part by questioning whether and how quickly we actually need a particular good,” said UBA head Dirk Messner.

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