Article by Dr Jasmin Cooper, Research Associate at the Department of Chemical Engineering and Sustainable Gas Institute
A large proportion of things we use every day have had to have travelled long distances to reach us. Be it fruits and vegetables grown in Spain or South Africa or electronics and textiles made in Asia, the UK is a large importer of goods from afar. The majority of goods are transported to the UK in container ships or freight trucks. While the transportation of goods is essential for maintaining current living standards and quality of life, the impact of importing things from other countries has a high impact on climate change and air quality.
Both the international shipping industry and global road freight sector contributed 2.6% and 7%, respectively, towards total global greenhouse gas emissions in 2015 and 13% and 17%, respectively, to nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions. The emissions from both sectors are currently at levels higher than they were 20 years ago, thanks mostly to the increase in globalisation, cheap productions (food, clothing, electronics) and disposable income but have remained stable since 2010. However, this has led to both sectors being large sources of emissions. The main cause for emissions is the dependence of fossil fuels; heavy fuel oil is the primary fuel in shipping while diesel is the main fuel used in heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) in the freight sector.