While the freight forwarding industry only provides emission transparency in its ambition to achieve carbon footprint neutrality through investments in eco projects compensating greenhouse gas emissions, DB Schenker’s approach is holistic, and based on different parameters. This goal is not only written on paper, but the company also acts according to the vision, as the first initiatives prove. These were recently presented to the members of the German Air Cargo Club (ACD) by Thorsten Meincke, Board Member and COO Air + Ocean Freight at DB Schenker.
To get a realistic and undistorted picture of the amount of greenhouse gases emitted during air transports, it is paramount to know the exhaust of all sources along the supply chain. For instance, the CO2 burn of aircraft, greenhouse gases stemming from the pre-carriage of shipments from the manufacturer’s site to the airport, followed by handling processes at cargo terminals, and loading activities at the aircraft. Conversely, the same parameters apply to processes at the destination. “Our carbon offsetting strategy is based on the inclusion of all links in the supply chain, from start to end, covering all actors and making every single member responsible for its footprint,” the DB Schenker executive explains.
Taking action now
However, this requires data transparency broken down by sectors when measuring the energy consumption of companies that are part of the supply chain. This is the only way to accurately allocate the share of total emissions to the individual polluters.
Determining this for the purpose of drawing up an overall balance sheet of the CO2 emissions generated during an entire transport from A to Z will probably take some time.
Instead of waiting for day X, DB Schenker advocates an interim solution: to overcompensate CO2 consumption. Mr. Meincke illustrates this by referring to a Lufthansa Cargo B777F flight from Frankfurt to Shanghai and back, carried out on 29NOV20, and powered by sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). “The total consumption was 174 tons of climate friendly SAF. But we purchased 209 metric tons of SAF, so we overcompensated the burn by including the CO2 emissions of the upstream and downstream operations in our calculation.”
Mid-term, the executive advocates switching from SAF to liquid e-fuels derived from solar energy or wind power and producing zero emissions when burned.
In contrast, SAF is a waste product of biomass such as plant residues or used cooking oils, hence limited in its fabrication and availability. This shortage results in high prices per ton compared to traditional fossil fuel. SAF is therefore only an interim solution for sustainable air transport solutions. It is, nevertheless, a huge step forward to achieving cleaner skies because SAF saves up to 80% CO2 compared to conventional kerosene. The environmental initiative of DB Schenker and Lufthansa Cargo is rounded off by reforestation projects to offset greenhouse gases that are generated during the production of the biomass; its processing, refining, and the emissions caused by the transport of SAF from its stock to the airport. “Including these components, greenhouse gas neutrality of cargo flights can be achieved to some extent,” the DB Schenker executive states.
He goes on to say: “We believe that without sustainability, successful business will not be possible in the future.” This results from public pressure in combination with changes in consumer behavior. “Our main goal is to step out of the era of fossil fuels and become a sustainability leader,” he declares. Pointing to the climate-neutral flight operated by Lufthansa Cargo and fueled by DB Schenker from Frankfurt to Shanghai, both logistics players have proven that air freight can realize sustainable air transports with alternative fuels.
Coming soon: one SAF flight per week
Addressing the ACD members, Mr. Meincke confirmed a former promise made by his company and Lufthansa Cargo, to operate one B777F long-haul flight once a week, from the end of MAR21 onwards, solely powered by sustainable aviation fuel.
Market initiatives, industrial innovations, and political support must be combined to make the aviation sector cleaner, ACD president Christopher Stoller exclaimed while wrapping up the video conference. “Shippers, logistics providers, airlines, airports, and policymakers must stick their heads together fast to expand production and infrastructure, and thus up the availability of Sustainable Aviation Fuel. This would put pressure on the (still very high) SAF prices and stimulate demand,” Mr. Stoller stated.
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