Just before Christmas, a group of doctors took to the streets of London to protest against diesel vehicles. Doctors Against Diesel want mayor Sadiq Khan to follow the lead of some other major cities and set a timetable for banning all diesel engined vehicles from London.
Earlier in December, the mayors of Paris, Mexico City, Madrid and Athens committed themselves to banning all diesel vehicles by 2025. They argue that, worldwide, three million deaths a year are linked to outdoor air pollution.
The challenge to the logistics industry, which relies on diesel powered vehicles, is clear.
Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris and chair of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, said: “Today, we stand up to say we no longer tolerate air pollution and the health problems and deaths it causes – particularly for our most vulnerable citizens. Big problems like air pollution require bold action, and we call on car and bus manufacturers to join us.”
While these four cities have taken the lead on this, it is certain that others will join them before long. In London, there are plans for an ultra-low emission zone from 2020, and Sadiq Khan has doubled the budget for improving air quality to £875 million between now and 2022.
This latest move reflects a significant ramping up of the pressure for change. Earlier this year, a group of global brands called on the European Commission to accelerate the introduction of energy efficiency standards for road transport.
And, when companies like Nestlé, Philips, DB Schenker, Deutsche Post DHL and IKEA demand action, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker is bound to take notice.
It’s worth pointing out that there are two different, but related, concerns – the need to reduce greenhouse gases, and in big cities, the need to reduce particulates and NOx.
Much of the discussion about city transport currently concerns diesel cars and buses and moving to electric, hydrogen and hybrid alternatives. But commercial vehicles are also going to feel the effect.
The successive Euro emission standards have had a big impact on the pollution produced by diesel vehicles, but together, the growing campaigns on these issues are going to have a massive impact on how logistics is done in large cities over the coming years.
Of course, some organisations have been working on alternatives to diesel already. DHL for example, says that some 4,400 of its 92,000 vehicle worldwide are using alternative fuels. In the US, UPS has 7,200 vehicles using alternative fuels including all-electric, hybrid electric, hydraulic hybrid, ethanol, CNG and bio-methane.
But, even for those that are working on change, the message of these recent events is clear: the timescale for change is shortening. Organisations need to be planning for change now.