EU recharges climate plan but risks letting countries off the hook on transport

Plans to increase the EU’s climate targets to achieve a 55% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 have been welcomed by clean transport group Transport & Environment (T&E). The European Commission today indicated more ambitious CO2 reduction targets of -50% for new cars, a phase-out of engine cars, and action to start cleaning up ships and planes. However, the suggested inclusion of road transport in the EU’s carbon market would jack up fuel prices while undercutting the law that regulates 60% of European emissions, T&E said.

William Todts, executive director at T&E, said: “The EU is finally getting real on the climate crisis. Transport is the biggest polluter and will only be cleaned up by boosting the sales of emissions-free cars and trucks and requiring airlines and shipping companies to start using zero emission e-fuels. But the plan to put cars and trucks in the EU carbon market is a mistake. It’s hard to believe that the Commission is proposing to abolish the very law that guarantees national climate action.”

Cars and trucks

Requiring oil companies to buy EU pollution permits for diesel and petrol sold to motorists - as today’s Commission communication signals - would not lead to significant emissions reductions, an expert study published in July found, but would increase fuel bills by 6-12 cents a litre.[1] Even Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans found it hard to defend the proposal in today’s press conference. The EU should instead double down on car CO2 standards which have already driven electric cars to almost one-tenth of sales in Europe, T&E said. 

The Commission’s pledge to reach over one million public chargers by 2025 is welcome. However, while it does propose an EU-wide ban on sales of combustion engine cars, it stops short of committing to 2035 as the end date, and excludes vans and trucks from the phase-out. The Commission plan provides no detail on how it plans to regulate heavy duty vehicles to increase the supply of electric and hydrogen trucks. 

Shipping

Shipping emissions should be included in the EU carbon market and the EU's 2030 climate target for the first time, the Commission said. Unfortunately the Commission has not yet committed to regulating all EU shipping emissions, leaving the door open to only covering voyages within Europe, which account for little over a third of EU shipping emissions. This runs counter to the European Parliament’s position, adopted just yesterday.

Aviation

After a decade of inaction by airlines and ICAO, the UN body in charge of aviation, the Commission said urgent measures are needed: a reformed EU emissions trading system to increase the cost of airline pollution. It correctly identifies the need to decarbonise aviation by deploying synthetic kerosene made from renewable hydrogen but leaves the door open for bad biofuels. However, the strategy fails to mention aviation’s non-CO2 impacts such as contrails which are at least as damaging to the climate as CO2.

Energy

Increasing the target for renewables in transport to 24%, as proposed, risks maintaining a high share of dirty biofuels. T&E said that sustainably increasing the share of renewables in transport can only be achieved by phasing out crop biofuels, boosting renewable electricity for cars and trucks and green hydrogen and e-fuels for shipping and aviation.

William Todts concluded: “Leaving plane and ship emissions to the international community has been a fig leaf for European inaction. Von der Leyen and Timmermans are now signalling that they want to make these polluters pay. But to power planes and ships, the EU needs to bet on hydrogen and e-fuels and finally put an end to the biofuels charade.”

Note to editors:

[1] Road transport CO2 would be included in the ETS by including fuel sales, and making fuel suppliers (oil companies) liable for purchasing corresponding CO2 emissions permits. Since a litre of transport fuel emits around 2.5kg of CO2 when burned, at the current price of €25/tCO2, fuel prices would increase by about €0.06/litre. An aspirational CO2 price of €50/tCO2 would lead to increases of €0.12/litre. 

Contact the press team

Eoin Bannon
Media Manager
+32 (0)487 717296 
eoin.bannon@transportenvironment.org

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