Last year was the one in which it became plain for everyone to see that transport had turned from being the grey sheep to the black sheep in Europe and the world’s efforts to improve the environment.
Air pollution is costing more than $160 billion (€143 billion) a year in lost productivity, according to new data released by the World Bank. The data also show that air pollution has its greatest impact in poorer countries.
Further decarbonisation of transport through a shift to alternative fuels and electro-mobility forms a major part of the European Commission’s strategy for an ‘energy union’, unveiled last week. With transport being responsible for more than 30% of EU energy consumption and a quarter of emissions, the Commission said legislation on ‘decarbonising the transport sector, including an action plan on alternative fuels’ would be put forward in 2017.
The Commission has said a number of EU member states could be making more and better use of environmental taxation.
EU governments last week agreed three modest targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions, increase the share of renewable energy and improve energy efficiency by 2030. Environmental groups said the goals would not do enough to cut Europe’s dependence on fossil fuels and put it on track to meet its own 2050 climate pledges.
A deal to salvage something of the EU’s post-2015 strategy to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from new cars has been agreed by MEPs. The European Parliament voted this week to approve the original 95 grams per kilometre limit, but by 2021, not 2020 as planned. T&E said the weakening of the Commission’s original proposals was ‘unnecessary’ and would create additional CO2 emissions, but it was still an acceptable deal overall.
The European Commission is taking legal action against the UK over claims it is exceeding limits on air pollution from traffic. Britain has two months to respond to the case that it breached EU limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions, which cause breathing and other health problems.
The health of millions of European citizens is being put at risk by carmakers’ failure to put cheap particle filters on new direct-injection petrol engines. The new engines are more fuel-efficient and emit much less carbon dioxide than traditional petrol engines, but T&E-commissioned testing shows they typically emit around 1,000 times more harmful particles, which cause cancer and pose other threats to human health.
EU member states have accepted a proposal that weakens the proposed legislation to limit carbon dioxide emissions from new cars from 2020. Following heavy lobbying by the German car industry, the 95 grams of CO2 per kilometre target for 2020 was effectively watered down by another 5 grams. T&E says the weakening will mean an increase in fuel bills of €775 over the lifetime of the average car.
It is not often that European environmental policy stories end up on front pages of newspapers, so when it happens, you can be sure there is more to it than just EU environmental policy.