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  • EU plan for road transport emissions going in the ‘right direction’, but planes and ships neglected

    The overall direction for road transport in today’s leaked draft of the European Commission strategy for low-emission mobility has been welcomed by Transport & Environment (T&E), though the sustainable transport group has urged stronger action on greenhouse gases from international aviation and shipping.

    The announcement to set post-2020 efficiency standards for new cars and vans by the mid-2020s is welcome, and recognises the essential role of EU-level action in reducing transport emissions and enabling member states to meet their 2030 climate goals.

    T&E executive director Jos Dings commented: “This is a step in the right direction. Transport is the biggest source of CO2 and the primary cause of urban air pollution, so it cannot be allowed to undermine the progress being made in other sectors. The European Commission must avoid any watering down of the plan before it’s published.”

    The leak includes the breakthrough announcement that efficiency standards for trucks will be introduced after 20 years of stagnation in their fuel efficiency. The US, China, Japan and Canada all started regulating truck fuel efficiency years ago – an area where Europe is falling behind. T&E added that the EU doubling down on its efforts to cut truck GHGs by enabling toll discounts for low-carbon trucks is a very welcome addition.

    The draft is laudably specific in recognising both the key role for electro-mobility in ending transport’s oil addiction and the benefits electric vehicles will play in balancing smart renewable electricity grids. The proposal that manufacturers would be required to supply ultra-low emission vehicles (as they must in California and 12 other US states) is eye-catching.

    But on biofuels, the Commission has regrettably refused to entirely rule out a continuation of the failed policy of using food-based first-generation biofuels; nor has it dismissed a role for gas trucks. Both the environment and the industry need certainty about plans to move from bad biofuels to sustainable energy in transport.

    However, the greatest disappointment is the complete lack of ambition on international aviation and shipping. Given the growth in their emissions, which is projected to continue under business-as-usual, far more action is needed to ensure they contribute to Europe’s low-emission transport agenda. It is also disappointing that the Commission does not recognise the enormous potential of passenger rail to decarbonise transport and replace short-haul flights.

    Jos Dings concluded: “The Commission is reasonably specific about its plans to reduce road transport emissions but is missing the chance to outline how aviation and shipping, which are the fastest growing share of Europe’s emissions, can contribute to decarbonisation. Europe’s climate ambition must cover all sectors, and all modes of transport.”