The contrast is stark. China was a threatening red on the pollution heatmap of the world in January 2019. One year later, it had changed to a calming blue.Travel restrictions and lockdowns issued to slow the spread of Covid-19 have reduced the country’s emissions significantly. Global air traffic in February was down 4.3% compared to the previous year; March saw record low numbers.By the looks of it, Corona is saving the climate.
However, it didn’t last. Covid-19 did not make the world carbon dioxide-free, as vaccinations increased people crept back to their old ways of living after the travel and contact bans were lifted. Once they had the means and reasons to travel again, they did, and emissions will start to rise again.
The logistics sector is often looked upon as one of the main culprits for CO2 emissions. Covid-19 has cast a different spotlight on the industry and shown how essential it was for logistics companies to keep supermarket shelves stocked and the economy going despite it all.
Logistics are a robust system. The mechanisms work, and are so reliable that it needs only a few adjustments even in times of crisis. Logisticians are experts at what they do, and they can deal with sudden changes in demand and supply. The sheer amount of people panic-buying and stockpiling is what left a few supermarket shelves empty momentarily. But the fundamental supply chains for necessities were secured. Nevertheless, the adjustments do entail fewer ships, planes and trucks going from one location to another. This contributes to the reduced emissions, and it might seem like a good solution for the future in general. If it works now, why would it not work after the crisis?
The supermarket shelves may be reasonably well stocked now and it seems as if the days of empty shelves are over. Pharmaceuticals, clothing, car parts, technical devices - the majority of what we use and surround ourselves with is part of a global supply chain. An interruption may not have the same immediate effect that an instant stop of food and toilet paper supply would have, but it would have an effect sooner or later.
Therefore it follows that the amount of ships, planes and trucks cannot be reduced long-term and the emissions will revert to their pre-Corona amounts. The solution is simple: efficiency. The trucks we drive, the planes we fly and the ships we pilot must be utilized more efficiently.
There are several ways to achieve this, and the combination of all is key. A few suggestions:
Measures to reduce worldwide emissions that were underway before the pandemic should not be forgotten. The lowered level of C02 in the atmosphere was not permanent, and it will take all our efforts to ensure more sustainable and greener logistics for the future.
Decisions have to be made now. If important regulations for reducing CO2 emissions are neglected, there’s the risk of them being entirely wiped off the agenda once the crisis has passed. Greener logistics would go back to being a pipe dream.
The good news: All stakeholders want the industry to become greener and more efficient. With our combined efforts, the innovations the crisis has brought forth already, and future developments, we can make logistics more sustainable. Long-term.