EU transport plan a big step but risks rerun of biofuels fiasco

The EU today charted a course for aviation and shipping out of the Covid crisis without fossil fuels. Transport & Environment (T&E) welcomed the European Commission’s mobility strategy but said the heavy reliance on biofuels instead of electrofuels for planes and ships risks an ecological disaster similar to the bloc’s last biofuels misadventure. On road transport, the strategy is a major step towards the electrification of cars and trucks although the EU executive continues to duck the question of when the last combustion-engine cars will be sold in Europe.

By 2030 the Commission wants planes and ships to start using alternative fuels. But it says the bulk of this will come from biofuels and only a little from from fuels based on hydrogen, such as ammonia or e-kerosene.[1] T&E said the reliance on biofuels is at odds with the Commission’s hydrogen strategy as well as its ambition to halt deforestation. A recent study found that Europe can scale up e-fuels production to power all of its planes and ships by 2050.

William Todts, executive director at T&E, said: “It’s great that the EU is getting serious about aviation and shipping’s climate problem, but biofuels are not the solution. Europe’s last biofuels adventure was a fiasco causing deforestation worldwide. We now have a great alternative in renewable hydrogen fuels which aren’t just cleaner, but also represent a big industrial opportunity.” 

There will be at least 30 million electric cars on Europe’s roads by the end of the decade, under the strategy. T&E estimates that this is in line with the Commission’s plan to increase the 2030 CO2 reduction target for carmakers to 50%. For the first time the Commission also committed to taking action on corporate fleet decarbonisation, which could result in new rules to accelerate the electrification of company cars and urban fleets. The document also commits to revising the 2030 CO2 standards for truckmakers in 2022 to boost the offer of electric and hydrogen trucks.

William Todts concluded: “This is another step towards the complete electrification of cars and trucks. But the Commission keeps ducking the big question: when is Europe going to end sales of polluting engined vehicles? The UK, California and even carmakers like Volvo have said 2035 is a good end date for polluting car sales. It’s time for Europe too to provide carmakers, consumers and citizens with clarity on the way forward.” 

Notes to editors:

[1] On the future of aviation fuels, the Commission’s staff working document on the mobility strategy states: “The largest part of renewable and low carbon fuels by 2030 would be provided by liquid biofuels, with e-fuels representing between 0.7% and 2% of the energy use (1% in the MIX scenario).” Staff working document, page 252.

On the future of shipping fuels, the staff working document states: “Liquid biofuels would represent 39-40% of the fuel mix by 2050, while e-liquids would contribution (sic) an additional 19-20%. Low carbon gases (bio-LNG and e-gas) are projected to represent 20 to 22% of the fuel mix and hydrogen another 7-8%.

“The share of marine diesel oil and heavy fuel oil is projected to reduce significantly over time. As a result, the CO2 intensity (expressed in tons of CO2 per tonne-kilometre) is projected to go down between 13% in the less ambitious MIX- 50 scenario (15% in the MIX) and 21% in ALLBNK by 2030 relative to 2015. By 2050, CO2 intensity is projected to decrease by 89-91%.” Staff working document, page 254.

Contact the press team

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

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