Efficiency first, electrification second, regional ambition for aviation and shipping third

Speech to Informal Council of EU Environment Ministers by Jos Dings, executive director, Transport & Environment

Amsterdam, 14 April 2016

Thank you Madam President for the invitation and for organising this very timely and relevant event.

I represent Transport & Environment, a Brussels-based environmental group specialising in sustainable transport, with 50 member organisations in 27 countries across this beautiful continent.

This summer the European Commission will roll out a strategy for low-carbon transport and I’m sure they are listening carefully to what we all have to say in this event.

This strategy is needed; transport accounts for 28% of greenhouse gas emissions and a third of our energy use, and, most critically, it is responsible for half of Europe’s energy import bill.

Many member states today have stressed the need for transport to contribute a fair share towards the -30% reduction target for sectors outside the ETS in the so-called ‘effort sharing decision’. And many have said that Europe can play a key role in helping them achieve these targets by presenting an ambitious strategy for low-carbon transport.

Apart from that, there is an urgent need for Europe to restore credibility too in the field of transport regulation, after the Dieselgate affair that has been raging for seven months now.

EU policies should follow the following principles: Efficiency first, electrification second, regional ambition for aviation and shipping third.

Efficiency: all vehicles need to become much more energy efficient.

On cars Europe has made a useful start with a law limiting average CO2 emissions from new cars to 95 grammes of CO2 per kilometre – almost 4 litres per 100km – in 2021. Unfortunately this law currently works better on paper than in real life. Manufacturers have found so many loopholes in the test that in real life, new cars in 2021 will still use almost 6 litres per 100km, not 4 – or over 140 g/km of CO2 instead of 95 despite introduction of a new test cycle.

Almost all member states mentioned the need for further standards; that is good but we need to be more specific and say we need them for the year 2025, not later. There should also be a sales quota for ultra-low carbon vehicles along the lines the UK mentioned. And a legal mechanism to ensure that fuel consumption does not just fail in the test, but also when you and I drive these vehicles.

On trucks, Europe is seriously lagging behind. Fuel efficiency of trucks has been stagnant for 20 years as the leaflet on your desk shows. If we do not act, trucks will contribute 40% to transport CO2 emissions in 2030. The US, China and Japan already have CO2 standards for trucks. We haven’t done anything yet. We need CO2 standards now, also to remain a global standard maker, not a standard taker.

And we need to ensure that transport electrifies and so becomes part of the clean electricity revolution. Over the past seven years the price of solar power dropped by 85%; of wind power by 60%, of batteries by 70%. Big further drops are foreseen. Other parts of the world are moving fast. We should stimulate all forms of transport that run on electricity, from electric bikes, cars, as well as trains. All these markets are still very fragmented though. Europe needs to create a true internal market for them as seamless as that for cars, petrol and diesel.

We need to urgently change our policy on biofuels, from quantity to quality. The latest scientific evidence, laid down in the Globiom report for the European Commission, shows that most current biofuels used in Europe are worse for the climate than fossil fuels. Biodiesel is on average 80% worse than fossil diesel. These fuels are a problem not a solution. We need a policy U-turn. We can only give clear signals to investors in better biofuels if we are prepared to end all forms of support – including the zero-counting of emissions – for bad biofuels.  

Regional ambition for aviation and shipping

Finally, tomorrow you will discuss the two elephants in the room: aviation and shipping. They escaped obligations in the Paris deal, an unacceptable omission. ICAO and IMO are talking about measures, but without exception these are insufficiently ambitious; and moreover, often these talks have only started because Europe acted first. ICAO’s CO2 standard is too weak to deliver, while the market-based measure for aviation would never have made it onto the agenda without Europe putting planes in the emissions trading system in the first place. Europe's monitoring reporting and verification scheme is also prompting action on global shipping emissions.

Europe needs to keep up this helpful pressure by going beyond what is agreed globally. Only then is there a perspective for change and for a fair contribution from these two elephants in the room.

Ladies and gentlemen, we need efficiency first, electrification second, regional ambition for aviation and shipping third.

Thank you for your attention.

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