EcoLogistics promises cleaner urban freight in developing cities

By Dr. Beatriz Royo, Associate Professor and Dr. M. Teresa de la Cruz, Project Manager at ZLC.

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The need to develop strategies and policies towards more sustainable, lower carbon urban freight operations is widely recognised by national and municipal authorities around the world. This is a challenge for cities in highly developed economies, and  even more so for urban areas which may lack the necessary infrastructure and facilities and city logistics knowledge.

“EcoLogistics: low carbon freight for sustainable cities”, is a project which ran from 2017 to the end of last year. The project was funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Cimate Action (BMWK), working with organisations including the EcoMobility programme of ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability), the International Climate Initiative (IKI), the non-profit Smart Freight Centre, Despacio (a research centre in Colombia), and ZLC.

The mission for EcoLogistics is to build capacity with both governmental and non-governmental actors which enable the development and evaluation of strategies and policies for sustainable low carbon urban freight, based on local actions carried out with national support. This implies a collaborative approach between a broad number of stakeholders, while recognising what is possible given market and other constraints.

That last phrase is important given that typically local administrations have relatively little data, knowledge or understanding of how urban freight functions. So, it is necessary not only to work with local and national public authorities, but to involve the various industries that provide or move freight through urban logistics services, and of course the businesses, retailers and consumers who depend on urban freight for their requirements. It is also necessary to create greater awareness of the technologies and techniques that are becoming available, and of the likely future implications of trends such as e-commerce for the urban economy.

EcoLogistics identified nine urban areas to work with – three each in Colombia, Argentina, and India. The next stage was collecting data to establish ‘baselines’ representing current practice, performance and market conditions, against which proposed new strategies and policies can be gauged. Partners have then worked with various public and private actors to develop Low Carbon Action Plans (LCAPs), including ZLC. These then help determine which (of the many possible) policies are most likely to be worth implementing in the short, medium and long term, given the circumstances of each urban area, and also provide a framework within which to estimate or measure policy impacts.

Each city then worked up feasibility studies for pilot schemes, and five of these were selected for supported implementation in Rosario, Argentina; Bogota, Colombia; and in India the cities of Kochi, Panaji and Shimla.

Across these five pilots is a diversity of approaches. Rosario chose to explore the potential for ‘bicicargo: using bicycles, pedal powered to combine personal mobility with small scale/light weight freight delivery. In Bogota, the focus was on alternative ways of de-consolidating bulk loads so that ‘last mile’ deliveries in priority areas can be accomplished using zero-emission vehicles.

In the Indian cities, Kochi trialled the use of electric three-wheelers to improve the sustainability of freight movements around market centres, while the pilot in Panaji promoted collaborative approaches to resource and asset use in the last mile. Finally, Shimla studied the environmental gains to be had through improving the operation of freight packing and loading zones within the urban economy.

Case studies of the several pilots can be viewed on the EcoLogistics website but they are not the whole of the EcoLogistics product. The aim is to spread the learning and encourage the adoption of suitable strategies and policies in other urban areas within and beyond the countries involved in the project. Part of this work includes the report of last mile logistics with cargo bikes in Latino America.  And the novel EcoLogistics Handbook, it provides a helpful introduction to the subject for non-specialists. EcoLogistics has compiled Recommendations for National EcoLogistics Frameworks (NELPR), addressed to the three national governments. The Low Carbon Action Plans for Urban Freight developed by each of the nine cities are also available.

To support the endeavours of urban authorities, a number of tools have been developed based on EcoLogistics’ findings – these include a city logistics self-monitoring tool for greenhouse gas emissions, and an environmental decision-support system for urban logistics, along with a guide to measuring the performance of urban logistics, and to accounting for logistics emissions using industry best practices. There are also summaries of some of the challenges our cities faced in delivering their pilots, which may help other cities avoid some of the pitfalls.

The planning horizons for making real change in urban logistics performance extend out many years for some strategies, so EcoLogistics has also compiled a ‘Future Trends’ document which raises a range of issues that urban freight planners and policymakers should be anticipating.

We hope that our work with EcoLogistics will help give urban areas in developing economies access to the best thought and practice that are readily available (even if too rarely applied) in the ‘developed world’.


For more information contact: [email protected]