While all eyes in Brussels are usually focused on three leading actors – the Commission, Parliament and Council – there are several other lesser-known EU institutions playing supporting roles. In the wings we have the EU Court of Auditors, which has repeatedly published scathing – and revealing – reviews on the use of EU funds for transport infrastructure. But will the stars of the EU show listen to their critics before the spotlight is turned on the new transport spending policies?
The battle to set emissions limits from new cars for 2020 is becoming increasingly bitter. Lobbying by Germany on behalf of its two leading luxury car makers led to the issue being removed from the agenda of a meeting expected to approve a negotiated settlement - an unprecedented move. Germany’s tactics have caused one senior Commission official to express concern about the integrity of the EU decision-making process, while diplomats have talked about ‘rogue behaviour’ by Berlin creating ‘bad blood’ among ministers.
The Commission has published proposals aimed at reducing the amount of taxpayers’ money that goes to airports and airlines. However, the fine print of what is initially a consultation means small airports will continue to receive massive subsidies that often make their way to low-fares airlines, even when such subsidies distort competition between airlines. The consultation is important, because when it is complete the Commission can implement its preferred solution without consulting MEPs.
The Commission has published its long-awaited response to the failure by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to tackle shipping’s contribution to global warming – and it has disappointed environmental groups. The proposal, published last month, is to require the largest ocean-going vessels, which are responsible for 90% of all shipping emissions, to monitor, report and verify their emissions of carbon dioxide, but no reference is made to other harmful emissions such as nitrogen or sulphur oxides, and no incentives or requirements to reduce emissions are included.
The Commission appears to have re-launched its trans-European transport networks (TEN-T) strategy. The transport commissioner Siim Kallas described an agreement last month between Commission officials, MEPs and representatives of member states as ‘a historic agreement to create a powerful European transport network’. Yet the agreement merely takes the existing TEN-T up to 2020, and even then there is likely to be less money available than will be needed to fund all the EU’s list of transport infrastructure projects.
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 European Parliament’s environment committee has sent a strong signal that it wants Europe’s vans to be more fuel-efficient than they are now. MEPs voted for a carbon dioxide emissions limit of between 105 and 120 g/km by 2025, down from 181 g/km in 2010. The 2025 target would equate to fuel consumption of 4 to 4.5 l/100km. The specific figure should be defined in 2017. The committee also voted to limit the speed of all new vans to 120 km/h from the start of next year.
MEPs have sent a signal that car makers will have to meet fuel efficiency targets by both 2020 and 2025. Although the decision still has to be confirmed by the full European Parliament, EU member states and Commission, the move lays down a marker that the average new car should need less than three litres to drive 100km by 2025. Environmental groups have welcomed the vote, but say it does not go far enough to drive zero-emission cars into the market.
The EU has finalised the text of its ‘stop the clock’ concession on the inclusion of emissions from intercontinental flights in the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme, although the chances of the gesture being wasted by members of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) look greater with each day that goes by.
Pollution from road traffic could have a greater role in harming the health of children than previously thought. A new study based on research in 10 European cities estimates that 14% of chronic childhood asthma is a result of traffic pollution near busy roads.