By Jos Dings, T&E executive directorAmerica is no green saint. An American emits more than twice the carbon of a European. Per head Americans also use more than twice as much oil for transport as Europeans do – mostly because five Americans own as many vehicles as eight Europeans and many of their vehicles don’t even fit in European garages. They send more than three times as much household waste to landfills. And so on.
There is broad support among EU environment ministers for new CO2 standards for trucks and strengthened CO2 standards for cars. A large number of those attending an informal council of transport and environment ministers in Amsterdam last month said the measures would be required to ensure the necessary transition towards a low and zero emission transport sector in 2050 in order to combat climate change, air pollution and ‘green’ Europe’s economy.
Trucks cost society €143 billion a year across the EU through damage to infrastructure and health as well as congestion, climate change and other effects. The impact of heavy-duty vehicles is assessed in a new independent study for T&E which also finds that only 30% of these costs are covered by fuel excise duties, vehicle taxes and infrastructure charges.
Road charging for lorries has been introduced in Russia, with environmental groups hoping it will bring a shift in freight from road to rail. The measure is intended primarily to raise money to repair roads; any environmental benefits look like being accidental.
Switzerland has voted in favour of building a second road tunnel through the Gotthard alpine mountain. In a referendum in late February, the Swiss electorate voted by 57% to 43% to approve a second road tunnel, despite it appearing to contradict the Swiss constitution that commits the country to shifting goods transport from road to rail. The vote has been widely seen as part of a political swing to the right, which has been accompanied by a weakening of public willingness to support environmental measures.
CO2 standards for new vehicles have been proven to work and new targets should be introduced for 2025 and 2030, a report for the European Parliament’s transport committee has said. The limited quantities of available biofuels are also highlighted, while the shift to electric vehicles is ‘inevitable’.
Leaked plans by car and truckmakers to cut carbon emissions of their vehicles in Europe – by resurfacing all roads in the EU at a cost of more than €520 billion – have been criticised as an abdication of the sector’s climate responsibility. Industry body ACEA’s ‘Joining forces’ initiative calls for greater efficiencies through major investments such as in lower rolling resistance tarmac, but fails to identify new CO2 standards for vehicles.
Representatives of EU governments have signed off on a deal that will put an end to brick-shaped lorry designs and clear the way for advances in fuel efficiency and safety for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. The agreement allows lorrymakers to produce new designs but the truck industry secured a ban until 2022 even though the new designs are voluntary, not mandatory.