Yes, this editorial has an unlikely title. If you have been following us, or the issues we work on, a little bit, the overwhelming impression is that things have been scaled back (emissions-trading aviation), postponed (the Fuel Quality Directive, possibly NOx from ship engines, truck CO2 emissions) and watered down (CO2 from cars, biofuels).
Hopes of having the full social and environmental effects of biofuels reflected in EU legislation before 2020 are fading after another round of negotiations led to further weakening of the European Commission’s proposal. With an agreement likely in the Council of Ministers next month, it looks as if the requirement for member states to report the effects of indirect land-use change (ILUC) will be further weakened. Also, food-based biofuels that are worse for climate change than traditional petrol and diesel will be allowed to increase by 50% from today’s levels and will not be capped under the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD).
This monthly digest is a collection of brief updates on transport or environmental stories from around Europe.
The European Union faces critical economic challenges, including dwindling natural resources and increasing expenses linked to pollution and related health problems. Without further action, degradation of nature will cost the EU €1 trillion every year by 2050. T&E and partner NGOS support research, development and application of sustainable technologies and practices and call on Mr Barroso, van Rompuy and Schulz to promote sustainable innovation at the highest political levels.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has published its fifth report on global warming, concluding it is 95% certain that climate change is human-induced. However, it will not release its detailed analysis of transport’s contribution to climate change until Working Group III’s report on mitigation of climate change is published, possibly in April 2014.
The IPCC findings, published last month, were widely reported, but one of the world’s leading broadcasters, the BBC, has been criticised for giving ‘false balance’ to climate sceptics in its coverage of the report.
Two new reports have highlighted the dangers of governments delaying action to limit transport emissions. A study from Germany says economic growth will be much harder to achieve if international action to cut climate-changing emissions is not achieved by 2015. And a study from the UK on how carbon emissions from aircraft contribute to global warming has also stressed the importance of acting now, not in several years.
This paper is a response from Transport & Environment to the consultation in the context of the European Commission Green Paper ‘A 2030 framework for climate and energy policies’. The response focuses on the framework for EU climate and energy policies in transport.
Suddenly Karel de Gucht is the most talked-about figure in Brussels. The Belgian trade commissioner is very busy. He is trying to finish a free trade deal with Canada; his boss and Obama are pressing for a deal with the US to be next. And then there is China – where the direction is towards less, not more, free trade. The EU has just imposed an anti-dumping 12% tariff on Chinese solar panels, with a threat to go to 47%. In its response, China is trying to play the usual divide-and-rule tactic by threatening tariffs on wine (annoying for the French), and luxury cars (annoying for the Germans).
The EU has reached its greenhouse gas emissions target for 2020 nine years early. Figures released by the European Environment Agency (EEA) show emissions in 2011 were almost 20% lower than those in 1990, the ‘baseline’ year for the EU’s reduction targets. T&E says the figures show the 2020 target was not strict enough, and they make the case for investments in low-carbon technologies during times of economic downturn.
The EU transport commissioner Siim Kallas has floated the idea of the EU legislating to oblige member states to provide more charging points for electric vehicles. The proposal came as part of a ‘Clean Power for Transport’ package launched last month that looks to encourage a greater take-up of alternative-fuel vehicles by the public. T&E said it was ‘a small but largely welcome step’ in the right direction.