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  • Europe shows ambition on cleaner road transport – now it must deliver

    The announcement of new CO2 standards for cars, vans and, for the first time in Europe, trucks forms the centrepiece of the EU’s strategy for low-emission mobility and has been welcomed by Transport & Environment (T&E) as a meaningful step in the fight against climate change. But the Commission’s plan is completely devoid of ambition on cutting emissions from aviation and shipping, the sustainable transport group said.

    The announcement of post-2020 fuel efficiency/CO2 standards for road vehicles will help member states meet their 2030 climate targets, which were also confirmed today.

    T&E executive director Jos Dings commented: Today the Commission distributes the EU emission reduction target for 2030 to member states, and promises European action on transport to give them a helping hand. This is a good plan but whether it works will depend on how effectively the promises are delivered. Cutting transport CO2 emissions will not only tackle climate change but also address energy dependence, cut energy bills and create jobs.

    Europe follows the US, China, Japan and Canada in introducing CO2 and fuel efficiency standards for trucks, the fuel economy of which has stagnated for 20 years. T&E welcomes the Commission’s pledge to act on this during this mandate, and make road tolls for trucks dependent on their fuel efficiency.

    Steps towards a California-style mandate for manufacturers to supply ultra-low or zero-emission vehicles are also welcomed along with ideas to measure emissions on the road. Such a mandate provides certainty and economies of scale that will give Europeans a wider choice in electric vehicles, which they currently lack. Zero-emission vehicles will be indispensable in achieving the full decarbonisation of road transport by 2050.

    The commitment for a ‘gradual’ phaseout of food-based biofuels is also welcomed, but the detailed plans must await the announcement of the EU’s post-2020 bioenergy, policy due by the end of 2016. The Commission’s continuing support for natural gas trucks as a pan-European long-term solution is surprising given new evidence highlighting the high cost and low potential.

    However, emissions reductions in vehicles could be offset by increases in aviation and shipping where there is no effective EU action and the Commission has abdicated responsibility to ineffective UN international organisations ICAO and IMO. It is also disappointing that the Commission does not propose any major initiative to revitalise passenger rail, a key tool in decarbonising and electrifying transport.

    Jos Dings concluded: While the European Commission has seized the initiative to decarbonise vehicles, the opposite is true for planes and ships despite the importance of European action in these sectors. Double hull tankers, lower-sulphur marine fuels, and carbon pricing for aviation are all policies ‘made in Europe’. Emissions from planes and ships must not be allowed to replace those cut from vehicles.