Attempts to cut freight transport greenhouse gas emissions can coincide with cost savings, a discussion paper has claimed.
The National Transport Commission (NTC) paper, Freight transport in a carbon-constrained economy, came against a backdrop of concern over emissions trading with some businesses saying it would add more pressure on already staggering industries.
NTC chief executive Nick Dimopoulos said policies to sweat Australia’s existing road and rail infrastructure harder, while improving freight links between ports, intermodal terminals and key distribution centres, will essentially benefit both business and the environment.
“Fixing road and rail freight bottlenecks, mapping networks for safer and more productive trucks, and improving the efficiency of road-rail-sea interfaces are sensible measures to cut carbon emissions, reduce freight delays and boost productivity,” he said.
According to Mr Dimopoulos, COAG has already agreed to map networks for SMART trucks, B-triples, quad-axle semi-trailers and B-doubles.
The report said transport should be included in an emissions trading scheme (ETS) to encourage the right investment, mode and technology choices over the long-term. The efficiency of an ETS, it added, would be maximised with short to medium-term complementary measures to cut freight transport emissions.
"Funds from an ETS could be used to help transition the freight transport sector to a lower carbon future," he said.
Professor Ian Lowe, president of the Australian Conservation Foundation said transport is one of the fastest growing sources of carbon emissions and, internationally, the freight sector has been a policy blind spot.
“As emissions from the stationary energy sector reduce, transport will become a more significant source,” Mr Lowe said.
“Even if greenhouse gas emissions from the stationary energy sector could be reduced to zero by 2050, further cuts in other sectors are needed to meet the national target of a 60 percent reduction.”
NTC is seeking public comment on the discussion paper by 29 August 2008. Submissions will be incorporated into a draft policy proposal for transport ministers.
“Australia cannot afford to wait, we must start acting now,” said Mr Dimopoulos.