Market forces will trump attempts to make air freight greener

Source: The Loadstar  
Date: 3rd January 2023

New policies for emissions control in air cargo will be hard to get off the ground in 2024, as market forces will make achieving commitment across stakeholders unfeasible.

The air cargo industry has faced uncertainty about the impact of environmental regulations this year on an already-soft market, as shippers will opt for alternative modes if air freight becomes more expensive due to carbon emissions policies.

However, in its 2024 air freight outlook, analytics platform Xeneta indicated that any impact on the air freight market caused by regulations would be a more distant concern, as “future growth in demand for air cargo will be slowed down”.

“But in a volatile market, achieving a universal approach and commitment across stakeholders will be hard to realise,” it said.

Xeneta said the Netherlands government had announced its intention to introduce flight caps and night curfews at Schiphol Airport to reduce noise and air pollution. However, this was scrapped due to intense pressure, particularly from the US, concerning the commercial impact on airlines.

Xeneta said this served as an example of how “market forces will often trump policy, no matter how noble the intention”.

The most recent targets of environmental lobbying are fast fashion giants, such as Shein and Temu, which between them drove a 5% spike in November airfreight lift.

But while air freight emissions are a hot topic of conversation, little has been done to reduce them.

Swiss NGO The PublicEye told The Loadstar: “The import and export data for the EU in tons shows a peak around 2018-19. Since the pandemic, there has been a downward trend, but it has not been stable. Exports are going up again, especially from Spain.”

Spain is another fast fashion hub, housing Inditex, the parent company of Zara, Massimo Dutti, Burshka, Pull & Bear and many other high-street labels.

Xeneta said: “While there is a common recognition that more must be done to reduce carbon emissions, the air freight sector is a delicate eco-system, which is relied upon globally.

“Balancing all these considerations will be important, but equally difficult to achieve.”

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