How much does land, air and sea transport pollute?

How much does land, air and sea transport pollute? The response is detailed below, according to a report from the International Trade Center (ITC).

It is often assumed that consuming products that are manufactured domestically or within the region is better for the planet’s climate than consuming products imported from afar. This may not always be the case.

Most of the emissions from transport come from road vehicles, not from maritime transport.

While ocean freight transport emits approximately two grams of CO2 equivalent per ton for one kilometer, road transport averages 150 grams, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

This means that shipping releases nearly 100 times less greenhouse gas emissions per kilometer than 3.5-ton trucks on the road.

Sea transport

Products imported by sea still have to be distributed locally via trucks.

However, the sea-based part of the trip plays a relatively small role in your carbon footprint.

The road distance and the efficiency of the truck network are much more relevant.

Additionally, the carbon intensity of shipping declined 28% between 2008 and 2018, according to the International Maritime Organization, which plans to lead efforts to cut maritime emissions in half by 2050.

The carbon footprint of the product depends on the distance traveled and also on how it is manufactured.

Some production systems and locations consume more energy than others.

Tomatoes grown in greenhouses, for example, consume 10 times more energy than those grown in the open field.

The length of time food is stored before retail also contributes to emissions.

In other words, imported low-carbon manufactured products that are shipped via ocean freight may be more climate-friendly than domestically manufactured products.


However, air travel is energy intensive and can overcome the lower emissions associated with producing in more energy efficient environments.

As humanity emerges from the Covid-19 disruptions, it faces an even greater challenge: climate change.

Lessons from the pandemic are informing new patterns of consumption, production and trade, characterized by increased efforts to mitigate and adapt to a changing climate.

But the transition should not leave anyone behind.

To do this, small businesses will need support to adapt to new regulations, rank the growing number of sustainability standards, take advantage of green financing opportunities, and incorporate circular economy practices into their businesses.

ITC concludes that responses to climate change must be designed to make the green transition feasible – and profitable – for SMEs, particularly those in the most affected developing countries.


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