• Vision for EU transport future ‘a big problem’

    Environmental NGOs have reacted with shock and disappointment at the Commission’s vision for the future of EU transport policy. Even an official of the Commission’s environment directorate was keen to distance his department from it.

    A series of hints by the Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, environment commissioner Stavros Dimas and leading officials created the impression that transport would be seriously tackled in the revision of the EU’s Common Transport Policy. But when the updated policy was published earier this month, journalists and campaigners were stunned at how little environmental ambition there is in the new policy.

    ‘If this is the strategy for fixing rapidly growing pollution, congestion and accidents caused by transport,’ said T&E director Jos Dings, ‘then we
    have a big problem. It doesn’t even scratch the surface.’

    Even the environment directorate was shocked. ‘It’s very much a transport product,’ the directorate’s head of clean air and transport, Philip
    Owen, told EU Observer. ‘We’re certainly not a partner on this.’

    Two months ago, Barroso said after a meeting with climate scientists and economists that he wanted the EU to ‘decarbonise transport fuels’, and gave the impression he wanted a major initiative on transport’s climate impact.

    The communication admits that ‘European transport is still not on a sustainable path in certain aspects’, and it recognises that encouraging leadership in environmental technology will benefit the European economy. But its only specific policy initiative is about promoting research and investment into improving provision of power for electric and hydrogen-fuelled vehicles.

    Dings added: ‘Climate change, Europe’s flagship environmental policy, is mentioned only in passing, despite the fact that transport is the single
    most important sector holding back progress.

    ‘The International Energy Agency has recognised that conventional oil is running out and alternatives such as tar sands will be even costlier and
    dirtier. But the Commission doesn’t give a clue as to how it proposes to deal with this issue
    of fundamental strategic importance to the EU, despite there being solutions available such
    as stricter fuel efficiency standards and fiscal incentives.’