Union Pacific Reduces Carbon footprint


By Kenny Rocker,
Executive Vice President – Marketing & Sales

At Union Pacific, we take pride in offering one of the safest, most fuel-efficient, environmentally responsible modes of freight transportation. Moving freight by train instead of truck in the United States reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by up to 75%. By shipping your freight by rail, you are making a choice that reduces your carbon footprint and benefits the environment.

That choice is making an impact. The chart below estimates the carbon footprint of your Union Pacific rail shipments for the calendar year 2022 and shows the positive impact compared to the estimated footprint of similar truck shipments.

Equipment Type Union Pacific
Total Shipments
Total Tons Total Loaded Miles Carbon
Footprint of
Union Pacific
Footprint of
Total Carbon
Covered Hopper 2,017 216,146 3,105,747 4,740 21,540 16,800
Tank Car 2 185 1,410 1 10 9
Total 2,019 216,331 3,107,157 4,741 21,550 16,809


*Estimated Rail and Truck Carbon Footprint in Metric Tons CO2 Equivalent. Emission Factors from The Climate Registry General Reporting Protocol C02e includes Carbon Dioxide (CO2) or Carbon Dioxide Equivalent, Methane (CH4), and Nitrous Oxide (N2O).

Union Pacific is also making a concerted effort to reduce its own carbon footprint. Our Climate Action Plan outlines the specific steps we are taking to reduce our environmental impact, achieve our science-based target, and achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

A few highlights of our environmentally-minded actions include:

  • Working toward a goal of reducing absolute Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and GHG emissions on a well-to-wheel basis from locomotive operations 26% by 2030 from a 2018 base year.
  • Setting a biofuel target to increase the percentage of low-carbon fuels consumed to 10% of our total diesel consumption by 2025, and further increase that consumption to 20% by 2030.
  • Using technology to improve the fuel efficiency of our existing locomotive fleet.
  • Testing renewable fuels to power locomotives.
  • Purchasing battery-powered electric engines to cut GHG emissions, which represents the largest investment in battery-electric technology by a North American railroad.
  • Forging a new partnership with The Nature Conservancy to support three separate nature-based solutions projects based in Nebraska, California and Texas. Project goals include grassland and wetland restoration, groundwater recharge, threatened species habitat conservation, and community education.

As a result of these and other actions, Union Pacific was selected as a member of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) North America for the first time, underscoring its sustainable leadership.

We’re also assisting our customers in meeting their sustainability goals and participating in a circular economy. Examples include:

You are welcome to share these resources with others. If you have any questions, please contact your sales representative. More specific climate information and data may be requested through CDP, where our 2022 Climate Change submission may be viewed in its entirety (CDP login required).

The environmental benefits of rail are well documented; we look forward to helping our customers achieve their own carbon reduction targets with our transportation solutions.

Thank you for choosing Union Pacific as your freight service provider.


Use our Carbon Emission Estimator to run your own comparisons or learn more about how to calculate carbon emissions.


Data provided are estimates based on annual shipment averages and represent a company’s entire corporate structure, including subsidiaries. For shipments moving in containers, the beneficial owner is associated with the emission savings, not the send freight party. Data provided is also based on system averages (e.g. miles, tonnage, and fuel consumption). Actual emissions and savings may vary based on routing and other variable factors. Union Pacific’s fuel consumption rate is applied to other carriers’ miles for interline moves. Railroad routes and mileages are applied to the Comparative Truck Shipments. Estimates apply to one-way loaded shipments only.

Truck fuel efficiency based on EPA/NHTSA, Draft Regulatory Impact Analysis: Proposed Rulemaking to Establish Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Medium and Heavy-Duty Engines and Vehicles.

Emission Factors from the Climate Registry General Reporting Protocol C02e includes Carbon Dioxide (CO2) or Carbon Dioxide Equivalent, Methane (CH4), and Nitrous Oxide (N2O).


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