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Road freight vehicles such as vans and long-haul trucks are major and essential drivers of the global economy, yet the environmental and economic impacts of the sector are little understood.

Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), noted that his agency’s new report on road freight transport is an important first step towards understanding and fixing the complex issues in this area.

Birol launched the report, ‘The Future of Trucks – Implications for Energy and the Environment’ at a Friends of Europe high-level conference on 3 July in Brussels.

He said that as the second-largest source of all global oil demand, trucks consume half of the diesel produced in the world, and the sector is the fastest-growing in terms of oil demands. In terms of emissions, road freight transport – approximately 60 million trucks worldwide – is responsible for 35% of all transport-related CO2 emissions worldwide, compared to 40% of transport-related emissions from one billion cars. Compared to two other emissions-heavy industries – aviation and coal use in power production and industry – the growth of truck emissions is set to be higher than both by 2050.

The road freight sector has a particularly damaging effect in cities, stressed Maroš Sefčovič, European Commission Vice-President for Energy Union, noting that air pollution and congestion from trucks has become a logistical nightmare in cities all around the world.

Policy efforts to curb truck emissions are not widespread, Birol noted. While forty countries have mandatory fuel standards for cars, only four – the US, Canada, Japan and China – have fuel efficiency standards for trucks.

“If we are to achieve our goals, we need to consider road freight at the policy, system and sector level,” noted moderator Dharmendra Kanani, Director of Strategy at Friends of Europe. “We must find ways to address the future of this sector in a way that sustains economic growth while adapting to the needs of our climate change goals.”

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