[mailchimp_signup][/mailchimp_signup]In a speech just before Christmas, the EU transport commissioner Jacques Barrot said: ‘I intend to present in June a report on how to internalise external costs, accompanied by a proposal to revise the current Eurovignette directive aimed at allowing external costs to be internalised under the terms of the directive.’
Last month, the Commission followed up Barrot’s announcement by publishing a ‘handbook’ on how to make transport operators pay all the costs they cause society. It is aimed at being a useful tool in preparing the draft legislation to be announced in June.
The handbook is a compilation of existing studies on external costs in the transport sector. It concentrates on climate change, air pollution, noise, congestion and accidents in all modes of transport, but also mentions some other environmental effects including landscape impact, soil and water pollution, and scarcity of space in urban areas. The Commission says it will start with action on road transport, as it is the mode with by far the highest unpaid costs, but other areas will be addressed later.
T&E policy officer Nina Renshaw said: ‘This is an exciting step, though one that’s long overdue. Clearly, scientific uncertainty can no longer be used as an excuse by policymakers to delay action on external costs. The scientists have done their job, now it’s time for the politicians to act.’
The issue of making transport pay its full social and environmental costs has been on the EU agenda for at least 15 years. T&E’s pioneering study ‘Internalising Social Costs of Transport’ published in 1993 was one of the first practical proposals, and the EU has been nominally committed to true prices since the Common Transport Policy white paper of 2001.