White paper postpones serious transport CO2 cuts until 2030

A leaked draft of the Commission’s new white paper on the future of transport says EU transport should look to reduce its emissions by ‘at least 60%’ by 2050 compared to 1990, but that almost all of these cuts would take place after 2030. The paper is expected to be published later this month, but the Commission has issued a low carbon ‘roadmap’ which says Europe must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by the end of this decade if 2050 goals are to be achieved. T&E has welcomed the transport target, but says the plan for reaching it is insufficient because it postpones short-term action to the point where emissions reductions will ‘magically’ have to intensify after 2030.

Sketch of some documents (default image for news

Every 10 years, the EU renews what is officially known as its Common Transport Policy. The last two were published in 1992 and 2001. The next is due later this month.

A draft of the white paper seen by T&E sets a specific target for 2050 for surface transport and aviation, saying they have to reduce their emissions by 60% from 1990 levels. Given that transport is the only sector whose emissions are still growing, that means a cut of around 70% compared with today. But it also says transport emissions should be cut by just 20% by 2030, which is an 8% increase from 1990 levels.

A separate reduction target of 40% compared to 2005 is mentioned for shipping.

T&E director Jos Dings said: ‘Including a target for emissions reduction from transport is a start, but to be credible the Commission needs to explain more of the details, for example, whether biofuels will continue to get special treatment. The short-term targets lack the necessary urgency and ambition to reach 60% in 39 years. The Commission is only aiming for a reduction of 1% per year until 2030, and then expects emissions to drop magically by around 5% each year after 2030 to reach the target. This is fantasy. We need a realistic action plan to address the twin challenges of climate change and energy dependence, and the sooner we take action, the better our chances.’

The white paper says the Commission will propose a range of measures for reducing transport’s greenhouse gas emissions, but admits their effectiveness is dependent on the pace of technological development and the price of traditional fuels. The paper recognises that transport must become less dependent on oil, and says road charges are being ‘increasingly considered’. It also wants to look at the impact of company car taxation.

Controversially, the white paper – in its current draft – rejects the idea of trying to reduce demand for transport saying, ‘curbing mobility is not an option’ . This has been criticised by T&E. Dings added: ‘This is both incompetent and unacceptable. How are we to tackle congestion in cities without tackling demand for mobility in those areas? The Commission sees pricing as an important tool for funding transport infrastructure, but is in denial over its vital role in ensuring we use the infrastructure more intelligently in the first place.’

Emissions from aviation are included in the white paper’s targets, but those from shipping are excluded, reflecting a growing difficulty of getting the EU to agree targets. The paper sees a big role for electric cars, and a big role for biofuels for trucks, ships and aircraft, although it says nothing about measuring or reducing the carbon footprint of biofuels.