We want the EU to be a global leader in reducing the environmental impacts of transport. We believe Europe should have the lowest levels of greenhouse gas emissions and air and noise pollution from transport; the cleanest vehicles, planes and ships; transport policies that encourage efficiency and smart behaviour, and pricing that makes polluters pay for pollution, not society as a whole. Below is an overview of our main areas of work.
Air is essential for life but polluted air can kill. In spite of the existing legislation, air pollution remains one of the major environmental problems in Europe. In order to protect its citizens and its environment, Europe needs strict and enforced air pollution legislation. Sector-specific legislation, such as for road vehicles (cars, vans and trucks), diesel machinery (construction machinery, inland water vessels and locomotives) and seagoing ships, is key to achieving clean air in Europe. The EU urgently needs to tighten and improve enforcement of its road, diesel machine and ship emissions legislation.
Aviation is one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the most climate-intensive form of transport. Aviation emissions have more than doubled in the last 20 years and the sector is responsible for an estimated 4.9% of man-made global warming. T&E campaigns with other actors, including members of the International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation (ICSA), for ambitious global and regional targets to reduce emissions within the aviation sector, for full inclusion of aviation in the European Union’s (EU) strategy to meet its reduction targets, and for removing exemptions on fuel taxation and Value Added Tax (VAT) for airlines in the EU.
The EU has long been a global force for cleaner transport. As a first mover, its standards have not only benefited citizens but given European industry a huge advantage by setting examples in transport regulation that are often replicated by emerging markets. Recently, there have been moves to slow down or stop this trend – through trade deals like TTIP and CETA as well as EU initiatives such as ‘REFIT’ and the Better Regulation agenda. This campaign aims to retain and, where possible, improve Europe’s ability, and willingness, to legislate for the common good in general, and for more sustainable transport in particular.
In its current form the EU law promoting biofuels for transport will lead to higher, not lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions up to 2020. Furthermore, for the period 2020-2030, the EU could still allow some unsustainable biofuels in the market, including rapeseed and palm oil biodiesel, as the Commission has only proposed a 3.8% limit on food-based biofuels without accounting for their full climate impacts. T&E and other environmental organisations are campaigning for Europe to stop promoting the use of unsustainable biofuels after 2020 and to fully address the environmental impact of indirect land use change (ILUC) caused by biofuel production. Find out more about our position on the latest Commission proposal on biofuels, download our briefing on the most recent ILUC study (Globiom) and take a look at a dedicated website on the biofuels reform.
One of the most important steps Europe can take to save drivers money, combat climate change, and create high-tech jobs is to require carmakers to produce more efficient vehicles. In 2008, the EU introduced legally-binding CO2 standards, for the first time setting a goal that, on average, new cars sold in Europe in 2015 should emit 130 grammes of CO2 per kilometre. This weak target has been met early, and most carmakers are on track to meet the 2021 goal of 95g. Half the improvement results from carmakers manipulating the obsolete test that must be replaced in 2017. The Commission also needs to make a new proposal for 2025 standards for cars and vans in 2017.
Trucking poses a major challenge for the environment and road safety. It is one of the sub-sectors of the transport industry with the fastest growing CO2 emissions and fuel use. Every year the EU imports around 500 million barrels (€60bn) of oil to fuel its lorry fleet, which makes the EU economy vulnerable to oil price fluctuations. At the same time 4,000 EU citizens die in truck accidents year after year. To tackle these problems, Europe needs to introduce truck CO2 standards and effective vehicle safety regulations without any delay.
The way we test cars and trucks in Europe is obsolete and opaque. This is the root cause of the Dieselgate scandal in which Volkswagen was caught cheating tests for air pollutant emissions. First, there’s an obsolete laboratory test for emissions that has not changed since the 1990s and is easy to manipulate and cheat with today’s more advanced IT technology. Then there’s an opaque so-called “type approval” system whereby new vehicles and automotive components are tested to ensure they comply with EU safety and environmental rules. Once approved these may be sold without restrictions throughout the EU single market.
As well as improving the efficiency of vehicles, the world needs to reduce the emissions that result from the production of transport fuels. That means improving refinery efficiency, cleaning up the dirtiest sources like tar sands and coal-to-liquid and stopping wasteful gas flaring.
In the European Union, there are two main tools to reduce greenhouse gases, which are responsible for climate change: the EU emissions trading system (ETS) and the Effort Sharing Decision (ESD).
The EU ETS covers between 40-45% of all GHG emissions and it includes most of the power sector, large industries and currently intra-EU flights. Installations under the EU ETS need to surrender allowances equivalent to their annual emissions. Allowances are either received for free, bought in public auctions or traded with other installations.
To get to a sustainable low-carbon economy by 2050, Europe needs to cut emissions from transport by at least 60% compared to 1990: that’s a cut of 70% compared to today’s emissions. This presents a very serious challenge, in particular for freight, where increasing truck traffic, modal shift from rail to road, and stagnating lorry fuel economy have dominated the last two decades.
Rail is one of the greener modes of transport. The European Commission’s 2011 White Paper established goals for the transport sector to reach by 2050 and it set out clear ambitions to increase the number of rail passenger journeys as well as rail freight movements. European railways are diverse; differences extend from language and laws to infrastructure and interoperability. The EU, through policy and infrastructural investments, is trying to overcome these obstacles. T&E works towards achieving policy that promotes sustainable and customer-orientated rail.
Shipping is a growing source of transport greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and is also a major source of air pollution, causing health problems, acid rain and eutrophication. Like aviation, the sector's international emissions were not explicitly mentioned in the Paris agreement. The United Nations’ global shipping body, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), needs to act now while the EU in parallel needs to include shipping in its 2030 reduction commitment, as proposed by the European Parliament. T&E works together with other members of the Clean Shipping Coalition to reduce the air pollution and climate impacts of shipping globally and in Europe.
Fuel bills represent one third of the total cost of ownership of a van, making fuel an important business cost. At the same time, vans are one of the fastest growing sources of CO2 emitted from transport, increasing by 26% between 1995 and 2010; in 2014 vans accounted for 9% of road transport emissions in the EU (28 member states).
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), noise is second only to air pollution in the impact it has on health. It is a major cause, not only of hearing loss, but also of heart disease, learning problems in children and sleep disturbance. Yet traffic noise could easily be halved, with existing technology, if more stringent limits were adopted.
Between 2005 and 2014 T&E worked at the EU and global levels for tighter restrictions on sources of transport noise including cars, lorries and trains. We continue to seek out opportunities to cut noise pollution.