A new global study by the independent not-for-profit Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) claims that the transportation sector significantly lags behind “Global 500 Companies” in mitigating greenhouse gasses (GHGs) and setting reduction targets.

Currently, CDP said, only 36% of transportation companies have set carbon and energy reduction targets, compared to 51% of the “Global 500 Index” of companies across all sectors.

The London-based organization surveyed 291 of the largest transport companies, including road, rail, sea and air transport, and found only 9% of transport firms report information on current investments in emissions reduction and alternate low-carbon options; and only 4% on future investments, with road transportation accounting for 80% of total CO2 contribution, followed by air (13%) and sea (7%).

The reason why transportation remains in the crosshair of emissions regulation efforts is that the global transport industry now accounts for 13% of global emissions, according to CDP’s figures, and remains one of the fastest growing energy-demand sectors, responsible for 60% of oil consumption in high-income countries.

“The [transportation] sector as a whole needs to transform and realize the opportunity to make a profound impact on the environment and the business benefits to reducing emissions,” noted Zoe Tcholak-Antitch, vice president and head of investors for the CDP. “Those companies which are already investing in that transformation will be better positioned for a carbon constrained world.”

The group noted that transportation as a whole is a critical component within the U.S. economy, meaning carbon reduction efforts would make a significant impact. In 2008, CDP said in its report, transportation-related goods and services contributed $1.38 trillion to U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) – a dollar figure that represents 9.5% of total U.S. GDP.

Despite this, only half of the transportation companies surveyed in CDP’s study report a clear understanding of what the group dubs “the risks and opportunities” associated with GHG regulations, compared with almost 70% of Global 500 companies, which are turning risks into opportunities for growth, innovation and competitive advantage.