UP Issues Climate Action Plan

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
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Union Pacific (UP) on Dec. 6 published a 2021 Climate Action Plan addressing its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

In February 2021, Union Pacific announced a science-based target to reduce absolute Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 26% by 2030 from a 2018 baseline,” Chairman, President and CEO Lance Fritz wrote in the plan’s Chairman Message. “Our absolute goal requires us to more than overcome emissions from business growth and the Climate Action Plan is intended to help us achieve this target. Critical elements of the plan are already being implemented, and each year we will enhance the plan as technology and experience support more GHG reduction projects. In 2025 or sooner we will re-evaluate our target with an eye on achieving net zero emissions by 2050.”

Following are highlights of UP’s plan (download below), which follows the Class I railroad’s four core principles:

  1. Serve: “Improve operational efficiency and minimize fuel consumption by modernizing our locomotive fleet and implementing energy management technology.” According to UP, it has invested some $3.4 billion to purchase more than 1,300 new locomotives since 2010, while retiring about 2,500 older, less fuel-efficient locomotives. The railroad has also implemented EMS (Energy Management System) technology on about two-thirds of its active road fleet to help “identify fuel-saving opportunities.”
  2. Grow: “Offer sustainable supply chain solutions to capture emerging transportation opportunities, explore supply chain circularity, and provide an excellent service product that establishes rail as the environmentally responsible surface transportation solution.” Among UP’s efforts: “Engaging customers to understand their sustainability goals and identify opportunities to transition to rail.”
  3. Win: “Decarbonize our footprint and the environment by increasing our use of low-carbon fuels and experimenting with alternative propulsion methods and exploring nature-based solutions.” UP reported that it is “working to increase the percentage of low-carbon fuels consumed to 10% of total diesel consumption by 2025 and 20% by 2030,” and it is “leveraging experience with low-emissions switcher locomotive technology to develop specifications for a battery-electric locomotive that could be deployed in selected yard operations.”
  4. Together: “Engage our stakeholders and align interests by using our influence to develop and advance rail- and climate-friendly policies and by engaging our workforce on environmental issues.” UP reported that it is “participating in policy development with the Association of American Railroads (AAR) on climate change and sustainability.” Additionally, Planet Tracks, an employee-led business resource group on sustainability issues, was recently established at UP.
UP Chairman, President and CEO Lance Fritz
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