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.
This blogpost by Joao Vieira, T&E's President, also appears as the foreword to our Annual Review Report.The EU is about peace, first and foremost. But as a political battlefield, it has few equals. In that context, we would summarise 2012 as the year that: Europe made it through the year in one piece, green transport policies suffered, were sometimes wounded, but soldiered on, and, last but not least, T&E played its role in the troops - quite often on the frontline.
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.
Black carbon, or soot particles from diesel engines, could be making a much larger contribution to climate change than previously believed, according to a study by over 30 internationally recognised climate scientists. The study, Bounding the role of black carbon in the climate system: a scientific assessment, says black carbon is second only to carbon dioxide as the most important warming gas, with a greater impact than methane. The study’s lead author said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in its 2007 assessment, gave a value to the role of black carbon that was only half of what this new study suggests it is. The authors believe that if efforts to reduce black carbon emissions were maximised, it could mean up to half a degree less warming or two decades of delay in current predictions about global warming.
Environmental NGOs from the ‘Coalition for sustainable EU funds’  warn that today’s European Parliament votes on future EU transport spending contradict MEPs' own ambitions for more sustainable spending by approving a Christmas wish list including damaging projects.