, Philippines
(L-R) James Leather, Chief of the Transport Sector Group, Asian Development Bank; Leonel De Velez, Assistant Secretary, Department of Transportation, Philippines; Guineng Chen, Team Lead, ITF; Elaine Borejon, Senior Science Research Specialist, Climate Change Commission; Young Tae Kim, Secretary-General, ITF

Transport think tank presents ways for PH to decarbonise freight transport system

ITF’s recommendations, coupled with PH policies, may halve the freight sector’s carbon emissions by 2050.

Like many other countries struggling to reduce carbon emissions and meet their climate targets, the Philippines’ freight sector alone emitted around 20 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) in 2022. It is at this crucial time that the International Transport Forum (ITF) has recommended several policies to help the country decarbonise this particular sector. 

Whilst the Philippines has transport policies in place, including electric-vehicle adoption, these will not be enough to bring down the CO2 emission of its freight transport, which is projected to more than quadruple in 2050.

If the Philippines only follows its current policies, the CO2 emissions of its freight emissions will grow by 151% to 50 million tonnes.

Through the ITF’s Sustainable Infrastructure Programme in Asia (SIPA), the transport think tank was able to come up with two sets of additional policies for the Philippines, one that focuses on building a green fleet, and another that promotes seamless intermodality.

The ITF unveiled its policy recommendations during its dissemination mission agenda held at the Diamond Hotel in Manila on 25 April.

The event was attended by members of the ITF led by Secretary-General Young Tae Kim, officials of the Department of Transportation, the Land Transportation Office, and the the Climate Change Commission, and private stakeholders that included Clean Air Asia and International Container Terminal Services, Inc.

Under its “Green Fleet” recommendation, ITF advised the Philippines to replace truck fleets with zero-emission vehicles. To do so, the ITF recommended the identification of use cases for early adoption of zero-emission trucks and to incentivise companies for fleet conversion. 

“Supporting pilot projects and offering purchase subsidies for electric trucks can promote low-carbon technologies in road transport,” the ITF said.

It also recommended that the Philippines adopt fuel economy standards for trucks. “Fuel economy standards can promote fuel-saving measures such as aerodynamic retrofits, vehicle wish reductions, engine efficiency improvements, and hybridisation,” the ITF said.

To make a greener freight transport system, the think tank also recommended the renewal of vessel fleets. It underscored the importance of implementing differentiated port fees that depend on the environmental performance of vessels.

The second set of ITF recommendations focuses on improving the intermodality in the country’s freight transport system.

Under this area of focus, the think tank advised the Philippines to increase port capacity; decrease dwell times at cargo transfer points by streamlining and digitalising processes; and promote and incentivise asset sharing between key players

By investing in port capacity expansions and maximising utilisation of existing assets, the maritime transport sector can capture a higher modal share in the country’s freight transport system.

At best, the ITF hopes these measures, coupled with the Philippines’ current policies, could cut the local freight sector’s carbon emissions by half come 2050.

It is confident that green fleet measures, in particular, can reduce carbon intensity of freight by 61%, whilst the seamless intermodality scenario can reduce the sector’s emissions by 21%.

Adopting from others

ITF Secretary-General Young Tae Kim said the Philippines can also learn from other countries with regard to decarbonising their freight transport system, particularly from Europe.

ITF Secretary-General Young Tae Kim

“On the European Union side, they are trying to bring regulation…they are trying to ban all fossil fuel vehicles by a certain deadline…starting 2035. Interestingly, China and the United Arab Emirates, which have depended a lot on fossil fuel in the past, are also starting to introduce a new approach,” Kim told GovMedia.

Kim added that in Southeast Asia, many motorists still use fossil fuels. Many gas stations in the region also still sell 91 octane fuel, whilst, in Europe, gas stations sell 95, 97, or 98.

A 2014 study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) showed that if the majority of light-duty vehicles run on higher-octane gasoline, the United States’ automotive industry can reduce carbon emissions by 35 million tonnes per year.

Kim said the Philippine government can also utilise ITF's tools such as the Transport Climate Action Directory, which has more than 80 mitigation measures.

“Every measure provides a rough estimation of CO2 reductions. By combining different tools, the government can expect to reach a certain point or level,” Kim said.

As much as the Philippines can adopt from other countries, Kim highlighted that there’s a lot to be learned from the Philippines as well, given that it has different modes of transport.

“These days, the important question is to know how we can complete an intermodal approach. I think the Philippines can provide the global community with their own experience, how they can make real improvement because in some countries we can only focus on land transport and sometimes maritime [transport],” Kim said.

Whilst it is still uncertain as to when the Philippines can achieve its decarbonisation goals, Kim is confident that the country will be able to reach an optimum level of improvement, especially if it focuses on technological development, behaviour change, governance, and international cooperation. 

“What is important for now is that the government continues to work together with the international community. The goal should be shortening the period of change,” he added.

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