By Cécile Toubeau, better trade and regulation directorWHAT WE LEARNED IN 2016: It has been a bumpy year for European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström. No one predicted the UK’s decision to leave the EU. Nor could the polls foretell the outcome of the US election, with Donald Trump winning on a largely anti-trade ticket. Both of these events came in response to the uneven sharing of the spoils of globalisation; a disproportionate share of the gains has ended up with the global elite, while median wages stagnate or decline.
The European Parliament at the plenary session in Strasbourg today voted to start exposing Europe’s incumbent passenger rail companies to more competition but falls short of ensuring Europeans will get better, cheaper train trips in the near future. Sustainable transport group, Transport & Environment (T&E), thinks today’s vote is a small step in making rail more efficient and customer-focused so as to attract more people onto trains.
This briefing outlines the need for EU legislation to deal with the issue of incumbent rail operators denying access to service facilities such as ticket machines or services desks for new market entrants. T&E welcomes the Commission’s proposal as it is important to improve the functioning of the railway market. We believe that this legislation could play a significant role in changing the dynamics of the European railway market and improving services for both passengers and shippers.
The European Commission have earmarked over €100 billion to spend on transport infrastructure in the current EU budget. The Commission also have committed to a 60% reduction in transport emissions before 2050. Meanwhile, transport emissions continue to rise across the continent. European countries have established national climate targets under both the Paris agreement and the ESR. If we are to meet such climate targets then investments will need to be made in order to succeed with our goals. Change goes where the money flows: if we are to decarbonise our transport sector then EU spending will need to play a larger role in ensuring that. Speakers:Branislav Urbanic (The European Court of Auditors)Martin Lange (Umweltbundesamt, The Germany Environment Agency)Stephane Ouaki (DG Move, European Commission)Pia Nieminen (European Investment Bank)Markus Trilling (CAN Europe)Sebastien Godinot (WWF)
The United Nations Environment Programme says making walking and cycling safer is vital for reducing pollution and climate-changing emissions. A new UNEP report notes the contribution of road transport to global warming and air pollution, yet almost half the 1.3 million people who die each year in traffic accidents are pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists – transport users who generate fewest emissions.
More than 65 countries have signed up to offset, but not reduce, aircraft emissions from international flights, starting in 2021. However, participation in the scheme until 2027 is voluntary and its coverage of emissions falls well short of the ‘carbon neutral growth in 2020’ target promised by UN aviation body ICAO and industry. The European Commission will now examine the agreement and decide what action to recommend be taken in light of the current suspension of the emissions trading system’s (ETS) coverage of flights into and out of Europe.
Campaigners in Poland believe they are close to persuading the government to expand the country’s road toll system for lorries. T&E’s Polish member Inspro is pushing for the existing system to become totally CO2-based – thereby discouraging the use of highly polluting lorries – and knows the Polish government is generally in favour of expanding road tolls, but it is still seeking the political will. The issue is important because the European Commission’s proposed revision of the Eurovignette directive next year could allow CO2-based tolling.
The Commission is currently drafting its “road initiative”, which consists of two main objectives: one is the protection of the rights of truck drivers and the other is a promotional mechanism to encourage a cleaner freight transport system. If done properly, this will have a positive impact on ending the exploitation of foreign truck drivers while also reducing CO2 emissions from road transport. However, vans simply bypass all of these laws and, if the Commission fails to address this, it could open the door to the further exploitation of drivers and result in dirtier and more congested roads.
The Paris Agreement’s objectives cannot be achieved without action to address rapidly growing emissions from international aviation and shipping, however these emissions sit outside of national targets. At the conclusion of COP21, the two UN agencies which regulate these sectors (ICAO for aviation and IMO for shipping) promised big action in 2016. Did they deliver? The event will consider what progress, if any, was made this year, what impact it may have on these sectors and what needs to happen now.
The Commission opened a public consultation on the “Eurovignette” Directive, which defines how Member States can charge heavy goods vehicles for the use of certain roads. The Directive will be reviewed in 2017. This is T&E’s response to the consultation.