Decoupling freight transport and GDP

Authors:

  • Åkerman Jonas
  • Hedberg Leif

Publish date: 2005-01-01

Report number: FOI-R--1656--SE

Pages: 55

Written in: Swedish

Abstract

This report deals with possibilities to achieve a decoupling of freight transport growth (measured as tonne-km) and GDP. The aims of the report are to make a literature review, structure the possibilities to achieve a decoupling and to make quantitative analyses in some areas. A decoupling may be achieved by an altered production structure of a certain commodity, either through a dematerialisation of the commodity or by a decreased transport distance. Decoupling may also be achieved by a change in the mix of commodities that are consumed. Results from the input-output analysis performed in the project show how transport intensity varies among groups of commodities. Food and drinks has the highest intensity, 26 tonne-km/ 1000 SEK, while services generally lie between 5 and 10 tonne-km/1000 SEK. A more efficient use of transport infrastructure, e.g. by using differentiated congestion charging, may lessen the need for new investments and thus lead to decreased freight transport. A conclusion from the study is that decoupling is a somewhat problematic concept. Quantitative analyses are difficult due to the complex spatial web of the production system and poor statistics. Another problematic aspect is that a decoupling may not always be accompanied by decreased emissions. Making products like mobile phones smaller and lighter can, for instance, make it profitable to switch mode of transport from lorry to air, which in tum leads to a huge increase in energy use and emissions.