European Elections: The Ecological Transition, a Guarantee of Well-Being

May 27, 2024

By Isabell Büschel, Director of Transport & Environment Spain.

The shift towards a low-carbon economy stands as an unavoidable priority for the European Union and its Member States, committed to the Paris Agreement to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. This transformation requires a profound overhaul of economic sectors, especially transportation, which accounts for a significant proportion of greenhouse gas emissions in Europe and has seen a steady increase since 1990, despite efforts in other areas to reduce such emissions. This trend is unsustainable and demands a determined and ambitious approach to reverse it.

The good news is that we have the tools and means to do so. The electrification of land transport emerges as a key solution to mitigate emissions, leveraging technologies like electric vehicles that are already demonstrating their ability to improve air quality and reduce the negative externalities associated with fossil fuels. Spain, with its abundance of renewable resources, is strategically positioned to lead this transition and reduce its dependence on energy imports.

Indeed, the shift towards more ecological and efficient transportation not only has environmental benefits but also economic and social ones. Considering that Spain enjoys the most hours of sunlight compared to other EU Member States, hosts one of the continent's largest lithium deposits, and ranks third in renewable energy generation capacity in Europe, the question arises: Why continue importing fossil energies like oil and natural gas in a time of climate crisis and growing geopolitical tension? Does it make sense, being rich in clean energy, to remain dependent on fossil fuel imports (oil and natural gas) from countries like Nigeria, Iraq, Russia, Algeria, and even the United States, Mexico, and Brazil to transport goods and people from Huelva to Girona or from A Coruña to Murcia? Internalizing the battery supply chain in Europe would not only reduce carbon emissions but also create jobs and stimulate innovation in key high-tech and sustainable sectors. Additionally, shortening supply chains and promoting local production of batteries and their components would strengthen Europe's strategic autonomy and ensure compliance with stringent environmental and social standards.

Choosing this path towards a more sustainable future raises a debate about ethics and moral responsibility. Should we prioritize the long-term well-being of the planet and its inhabitants, or cling to economic models that contribute to climate change and environmental degradation? This dilemma gains relevance in the context of the European elections, where citizens of all Member States have the opportunity to influence the political and economic direction of the region. As a passionate advocate for European integration due to the immense benefits it brings us, I am convinced that accelerating the ecological transition is synonymous with well-being, while delaying this transformation only diminishes our resilience against global warming, the acceleration of extreme weather events, and variations in energy and raw material supplies. Hindering and slowing down the ecological transition, as some companies and populist governments in certain Member States seek to do, constitutes a severe threat to economic and social well-being in Europe. Conversely, driving this transition brings benefits to both public health and the economy.

Setting ambitious electrification targets for companies that own or lease large vehicle fleets through leasing is crucial to advancing towards zero emissions. Moreover, this will facilitate the democratization of electric vehicles, as at the end of the leasing period, these vehicles will feed an emerging second-hand vehicle market. Implementing fiscal incentives primarily aimed at companies and introducing a social leasing program targeted at low-income population groups are proposed as solutions to make the transition to electric mobility more accessible and equitable for all sectors of society. This program could be part of the social climate plan, partially funded by European Union funds. The electrification of corporate fleets and the adoption of social leasing will help increase the currently low share of electric vehicle registrations in Spain (5%), encourage manufacturers to produce more affordable vehicles, and promote the creation of quality jobs with future prospects.

In summary, the transition to a low-carbon economy is a challenge that must be urgently addressed, and the electrification of transport and the internalization of the battery supply chain emerge as two fundamental strategies to achieve this goal. It is crucial that both the European Union and its Member States take decisive measures in this regard, seizing opportunities such as the Spanish draft industrial and strategic autonomy law or the sustainable mobility law to set the course towards a cleaner and more sustainable future. After the upcoming elections, MEPs will implement the policies chosen by their voters. All these aspects should be considered when casting our ballot.

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