Surface transport and climate targets

Neither short-term 2030 targets or the long-term 2050 climate targets are realistic without significant transport emissions cuts.

The Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR), as adopted in 2018, sets national targets for emission reductions from road transport, heating of buildings, agriculture, small industrial installations and waste management. These sectors currently generate about 60% of EU greenhouse gas emissions.

To meet the EU’s overall emission reductions target by 2030, Member States must now reduce emissions under the ESR by at least 40%, compared to 2005 levels.

Although road transport and building sectors are now included in the new emissions trading system (see here), the ESR will continue to cover those two sectors.

Road transport and buildings are responsible for around 55% of the emissions covered by the ESR today. Emission reductions in these sectors have been insufficient so far – emissions from road transport have risen – and therefore need to accelerate to deliver on the increased 2030 target. This requires a different policy approach.

The price signal resulting from emissions trading for road transport and heating fuels will incentivize businesses and consumers to save energy and make climate-friendly investments. However, these are sectors where price incentives should be complemented by government action such as tackling market failures, investing in infrastructure, favouring the uptake of zero-emission cars and promoting building renovation.

The good news is that transport has the potential to reduce its emissions by 30% by 2030. Transport emission reductions must be achieved through a range of measures at the EU, national and local levels. However, no sustainable transport policy can be successful without cleaner vehicles and fuels. This means Europe urgently needs to start driving the technology and fuel transition that is needed to decarbonise the light-duty vehicle fleet and significantly reduce heavy-duty vehicle emissions by 2050.

Also, member states have other options in their hands, such as improvements to public transport, walking, cycling, and freight intermodality; fuel-efficient driver training; internalisation of external costs; speed enforcement and harmonisation; and revisions to company-car taxation policies. However, the plans announced so far are insufficient. These are cumulatively of a similar scale to the EU-level measures. Some EU-level and member state policies work well in combination such as vehicle standards and national taxation policies on vehicles. In combination, EU and national-level policies enable transport to be decarbonised in line with 2030 ESR climate targets and ultimately 2050 goals.