By William Todts, freight and climate directorWHAT WE LEARNED IN 2016: “So what did you learn in 2016? And could you write a blog about it?" asked our communications officer.Silence. My God, where do I start, I thought. First Brexit, then Trump, and before all that there were people bombed on the metro in my hometown. What a year! But I can't write a doom and gloom Christmas blog.Then somehow I started thinking about this one thing that had really surprised me. A year ago I was campaigning to get the EU to introduce truck CO2 standards and, frankly, things weren’t looking great. Yes, there had been the Paris agreement, but still the odds were stacked against us. The Commission just didn't want to budge and the truck industry seemed all-powerful.
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.
EU governments last week agreed three modest targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions, increase the share of renewable energy and improve energy efficiency by 2030. Environmental groups said the goals would not do enough to cut Europe’s dependence on fossil fuels and put it on track to meet its own 2050 climate pledges.
Many people tend to see the world in a Manichean way. You’ve got the good guys and the bad guys. That’s as true within the environmental movement as anywhere else. So it is perhaps surprising to see that many environmentalists work together with unusual allies. For example, when it comes to car CO2 standards environmentalists and car drivers have the same interest; cleaner, more efficient cars are good for drivers’ pockets and for the climate. That makes the case for them almost irresistible.
The Danish government has asked EU leaders to consider including transport in the emissions trading system (ETS) when they discuss climate and energy targets at a European Council later this month. Campaigners say such a move would actually be counterproductive to reducing emissions in the sector and do nothing to strengthen the ETS.
Measures that limit the movement of cars in urban areas actually attract public support – if they are understood.
The question of how to tax transit traffic fairly under EU rules is likely to come to the fore after the German transport minister announced a new road toll aimed at non-German vehicles driving on German roads.
A new study for the Brussels capital region in Belgium analyses the merits of a congestion charge with a fee per kilometre travelled.
The European Commission is taking legal action against the UK over claims it is exceeding limits on air pollution from traffic. Britain has two months to respond to the case that it breached EU limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions, which cause breathing and other health problems.