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PARIS: The International Transport Forum (ITF) at the OECD says freight will replace passenger traffic as the main source of C02 transport emissions as volumes are forecast to expand between 230 percent and 420 percent by 2050.

As a result, related C02 emissions will grow between 140 percent and 350 percent depending on how much freight switches from road to rail in the same period.

OECD freight growthThe ITF report says airfreight volumes (measured in freight tonne-kilometres) will grow the fastest at 482 percent from a base of 191 billion FTKs in 2010 to 1.1 trillion FTKs by 2050. Corresponding C02 emissions will rise the most at 411 percent from 150 million tonnes to 767 million tonnes per annum in the same period.

"The foreseeable increase in global freight represents an unprecedented challenge for the world's transport systems," said ITF secretary-general José Viegas. "A quadrupling of freight emissions can seriously undermine climate change mitigation," he added.

Viegas says governments and operators could avoid such a nightmare scenario by improving capacity management as many freight facilities are underutilized; investing in missing links – alternative and multi-modal connections increase efficiency; adapting infrastructure to accommodate more and bigger vessels, including port hinterland connections; and improving load factors while reducing idle times across supply chains.

The ITF expects the North Pacific to grow 100 percent faster than the North Atlantic and surpass it as the world's busiest freight lane. At the same time freight volumes on the Indian Ocean are expected to quadruple by 2050.

Intra-African and intra-Asian freight volumes will grow 715 percent and 403 percent respectively based largely on road transport. The OECD notes that with the share of global domestic transport accounting for 10 percent of trade-related international freight but 30 percent of C02 emissions, countries could do a lot more to reduce this percentage as domestic transport is shaped by national policies and less by international agreements.

The ITF, an intergovernmental organization with 54 member countries, acts as a strategic think tank for advising government ministries on multimodal transport policy.

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