The Geography of Transport Systems
FOURTH EDITION
Jean-Paul Rodrigue (2017), New York: Routledge, 440 pages.
ISBN 978-1138669574
Transportation Environmental Management
Author: Dr. Claude Comtois
1. Environmental Management Systems
All transport infrastructures vary in terms of property, investment provisions, types of activities and volume of traffic. As a result, it is not possible to provide a unique model of environmental management as problems are mode specific and there is no agreed upon common international standards. Nevertheless, there are several environmental management systems (EMS) that provide procedures and specifications in a structured and verifiable manner to meet environmental objectives.
An environmental management system is a set of procedures and techniques enabling an organization to reduce environmental impacts and increase its operating efficiency.
Obviously, transport firms can only manage environmental issues on which they can exert a controlling influence. The best environmental practices include procedures that:
  • Match transport facilities, operations or projects with environmental components.
  • Link environmental components with regulatory requirements.
  • Assess risks, impacts and responsibilities.
  • Identify environmental issues to be addressed.
  • Consider commercial strategies and operations of private and public sector organization.
  • Introduce best practices.
  • Undertake continuous monitoring and auditing.
These issues must be clearly understood and addressed before designing a particular framework of environmental management for a transport organization. There exist numerous environmental management systems. Obviously, the choice of a system is specific to each transport enterprise in relation to the problem, risks, impacts and responsibilities identified and the geographical environment in which the enterprise must operate. The most often mentioned environmental management systems are EMAS and ISO 14 001:
  • Eco-Management and Audit Scheme. In 1993, the European Union created the norm EMAS, conceived to provide European firms with a framework and operational tools that would permit to better protect the environment. EMAS has developed a handbook entitled «Identification of environmental aspects and evaluation of their importance». This approach rests on the necessity to identify environmental impacts and the various types of environment that are affected by the operations and activities of any types of organizations including transport enterprises. The impacts are evaluated according to a step by step procedure that examines each activity of an enterprise and their impacts on the environment. Each impact is then assessed in relation to criteria developed by the organization. These criteria must evaluate the potential damage to the environment, the fragility of the environment, the size and frequency of the activity, the importance of that activity for the organization, the employees and the local community, and the legal obligations emanating from environmental legislation.
  • ISO 14001. The International Standard Organization has developed a set of norms that represent the main industrial reference in terms of environmental management systems and sustainability. ISO 14001 offers three categories of indicators to measure the environmental performance that could be applicable to the transport industry. The indicators of environmental conditions (IEC) present the information on the environmental conditions permitting a better understanding of the impacts or the potential impacts of transport operations. The indicators of management performance (IMP) present information on the management efforts that are being made to influence the environmental performance of transport operations. The indicators of operational performance (IOP) present information on the environmental performance of transport operations. Generally, these indicators permit to identify the most significant environmental impacts that are associated with transport operations, to evaluate, review and increase the environmental performance of transport corporations, to identify new practices and opportunities for a better management of transport operations, and to have constant, credible and measurable information and data on the relationship between the environmental performance of the firm and its environmental objectives, targets and policies.
EMAS has been developed to stimulate and synchronize European environmental policies. EMAS mainly addresses manufacturing and transportation issues and is site specific. EMAS has a focus on internal corporate activities (as ISO) but also on external stakeholders. As a result EMAS holders are required to publish environmental statements for the public, while ISO 14 001 has no such provision. In contrast, ISO is global in scope and is company specific. The corporate benefits do not differ between the two systems and studies suggest that the two standards have no practical effects on environmental performance (Freimann and Walther, 2001; Biondi, Frey and Iraldo, 2000). The most important issue is that both EMS have strength and areas to improve, but it is the corporate environmental outlook that is the real engine to a high level of environmental performance and therefore a strong EMS.
2. Operational Constraints
Obviously the adoption of an environmental management system (EMS) favors the conformity and the adaptability of transport operations to environmental legislation. The issue of responsibility is at the heart of the processes of environmental sustainability. The modern history of environmental legislation reveals that different laws have been promulgated on a wide range of physical components of the environment. In the field of transport, several measures have been adopted to reflect the objectives of sustainable environment. While many of these measures are perfectible, international environmental laws and legislation tend to put pressure within and beyond national boundaries. The growth in the number and strength of environmental policies, rules and practices has increased the number of standards and has permitted the development of a wide range of techniques of environmental sustainability such as voluntary remediation programs, flexible standards and procedures, financial and technical support. The main benefit resides in the reduction of legal costs that affect the profits and the productivity of the transport industry. There exist four functions that can anchor the administrative responsibility of the transport industry:
  • Quantify the terms of references. Everywhere, transport companies have to adapt their environmental objectives in relation to a great variety of geographical conditions, commercial, technological changes and environmental policies, legislation and regulations. Henceforth, transport corporations cannot limit themselves to simply enunciate principles or policies in the field of environment. Environmental management systems applied to transportation require a massive amount of information on environmental conditions and the dynamics of the transport system. The best practices are those adopting an analytical framework disaggregating environmental objectives. This implies homogenous, exploitable and credible units of measurement that are time referenced with a view to observe the evolution and comparison by sector and at different geographical scales. Data must permit the environmental impacts of transport activities to be quantified continuously. Reasonable objectives need to be fixed that would in turn represent benchmarks for defining strategies of environmental sustainability in different sectors and at different levels. For instance, this could be the reduction of polluting emissions by a certain percentage over a given period of time in relation to a given benchmark.
  • Devise a calendar of operations. The objectives of sustainable environment can be very complex for several reasons: 1) the lack of data for evaluating the impact and the cost of environmental measures; 2) the importance of strategies and actions at the international level; 3) the lack of procedures or methods to solve the problems; 4) conflicts of jurisdictions; and 5) the growth in the production of polluting emissions. New problems may need to be controlled or solved while our understanding of environmental problems improves and new environmental technologies are introduced. The most efficient strategies are those that target short, medium and long term objectives with precise values. The best strategies are dynamic and integrated within a continuous evaluation process.
  • Establish benchmarking. There is a need to establish the minimum standards of quality that are sought from transport operations. Since it is almost impossible to establish a pristine reference, the standards must permit to specify the state of environmental quality that is sought. These standards must express the specific environmental status with regards to water, air, soil and all the other components of the physical environment within a precise geographical area. The standards will clarify the level of pollution or other impacts that can be supported by people and the environment without any risks. The best practices are those that: 1) establish standards on the basis of scientific criteria; 2) engage public administration in the development of procedures for writing, applying and controlling legislation; and 3) integrate these standards within the practices of territorial planning.
  • Implement measures of control. It is important to impose standards of quality and parameters for the different components of the physical environment. The objective must be the eradication of any toxic substances that may present a risk for people’s health and the environment. The practices and the policies of environmental sustainability within the transport industry demonstrate the need for flexibility and adaptability of transport systems to the challenges of protecting the environment through the adoption of appropriate technologies and material. Notwithstanding the criteria of analysis in the environmental management plan, it is important to undertake frequent assessments with a view to control the respect of transport operations to the existing environmental legislation. Environmental certification represents the best instrument of control of the transport industry.
3. Governance Strategies
Environmental legislation is placing increasing restrictions on transport activity and the statutory authorities are having to respond by developing management systems enabling them to meet regulatory requirements. The trajectories of environmental sustainability depend on the role and function that transport corporations could or should play within the process of sustainable development. Implementing an environmental management system (EMS) requires a broad range of instruments. Six instruments are conducive to the implementation of strategies for environmental sustainability applied to the transport industry:
  • Strategic instruments. Any strategy of environmental sustainability must rest on a vision of development that defines general orientations and interacts with existing policies. Corporate leadership plays a key role in the success of practices of sustainable environment. A company-wide vision of sustainability facilitates the integration of sustainable environment goals within management practices. Furthermore, it may help receiving government support and encourage the participation of stakeholders.
  • Legal instruments. Legislation remains one of the most important instruments to achieve sustainable environment. The best practices are associated with different legislation emanating from public administrations at the local, regional, national and international level.
  • Geographic instruments. Geographic and cartographic tools are fundamental for environmental sustainability planning. For transport enterprises, these tools permit the construction of data bases on the physical characteristics of land uses, inventory and mapping of freight and passenger flows, trip length and frequencies.
  • Economic instruments. Cost-benefit analyses are important in the elaboration of pricing and fiscal policies and fixing quotas to protect the environment from transport activities. Economic instruments can further be modified to assess more accurately the costs of environmental damage. The most efficient “green taxes” in terms of environmental sustainability rest on the establishment of dues that reflect the marginal costs of environmental damages.
  • Communication instruments. Personnel training, research and development activities, dissemination of impact assessment and risk evaluation reports are extremely important in influencing the behavior of transport users and corporate decision making. The best performances in sustainable environment are achieved in transport firms that have adopted measures of knowledge growth and environmental responsibilities among all the personnel working in the transport organization.
  • Cooperation instruments. These instruments aim at increasing the institutional capacity of the transport industry by integrating all the elements of environmental sustainability in corporate strategies. Cooperation and voluntary alliances between governments and transport industry stimulate and facilitate the identification of objectives and the elaboration of strategies for a sustainable environment.
Notwithstanding the criteria of analysis in the environmental management plan, it is important to undertake frequent assessments with a view to control the respect of transport operations to the existing environmental legislation. Environmental certification represents the best instrument of control of the transport industry.