European Green Deal can be a defining moment in the fight against pollution and climate change, says green transport NGO
As the centrepiece of her political mandate, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen today presented her European Green Deal, a comprehensive climate and nature package of measures to make Europe climate neutral by 2050. The package includes: a 50-55% emissions reduction target for 2030; a climate law to reach net zero emissions by 2050; a fund worth €100 billion to finance the transition; a carbon border tax; and a series of initiatives for sectors such as transport, agriculture, chemicals, buildings and more. Transport & Environment (T&E), Europe’s leading research and campaign group on clean transport, welcomes the announcement but warns that more needs to be done in transport if we want to fully decarbonise transport and transition to a net zero economy in 2050.
William Todts, Executive Director of T&E, said: 'The European Green Deal could be a defining moment in the fight against pollution and climate change. The Commission’s plan to move to completely zero-emission cars and vans through a combination of new standards, ubiquitous charging infrastructure and green batteries is going in the right direction. The plan to end aviation’s tax holiday, make sure shipping pays for its emissions and mandate the deployment of clean fuels and technology is welcome. Of course this is just a declaration of intent. The devil will be in the details of the new laws and whether EU governments support the Green Deal, but it is a good start.”
VdL’s Green Deal announces tighter CO2 standards for cars and vans in 2021 and a clear pathway towards zero emission mobility, recognising that combustion engine vehicles must be phased out. In addition, the strategy includes plans for a final set of pollutant emission standards for cars, vans, buses, trucks with a combustion engine (euro 7), a sustainable battery package and a major effort to install recharging infrastructure across Europe. The Commission is also launching a major Just Transition Fund and seems to recognise that a successful green deal needs to be a fair deal that leaves no-one behind.
T&E also welcomes that the Commission appears willing to finally take on aviation and shipping, the biggest climate laggards. For airlines, Von der Leyen proposes to reduce free allowances in the European carbon market (known as the ETS) – increasing the cost of their pollution – and ending the kerosene tax exemption. The Commission also proposes to include shipping in the ETS, the first climate measure for the only sector of the economy that has so far escaped climate action. In this respect, it is reassuring that ICAO and IMO, the UN agencies that have been sabotaging climate progress in these two sectors for at least two decades, are only mentioned in passing as bodies that the EU should coordinate with.
The deal signals a green overhaul of EU and EIB investment policies, as well as plans to build upon the Taxonomy Regulation by publishing a green financing action plan in 2020.
However, T&E warned that VdL’s green programme still falls short of what’s needed to fully decarbonise transport by 2050 and, in some instances, risks repeating past mistakes. For example, the Commission’s plan to boost “sustainable alternative fuels in different sectors” risks reopening the door for gas as well as deforestation and hunger-causing biofuels. Moreover, truck emissions are ignored in this plan with the exception of the road tolling directive. The revision of CO2 standards for trucks needs to come as early as possible and must mandate zero-emission trucks.
Similarly worrying is that the Commission is considering applying the EU ETS to road transport. This failed policy championed by German carmakers would have no impact on car and truck emissions, could fatally undermine the national climate targets and shift the climate burden to motorists and truckers, and risk letting the vehicle manufacturing industry off the hook.
“We’re facing a climate and environmental emergency. We really can’t afford to waste time revisiting failed policies like the promotion of biofuels or wasting limited resources promoting gas vehicles. Europe’s green energy policy is driving deforestation and wildlife destruction worldwide. We need to end this now, not make it worse. What we do need though is a realistic plan to deploy zero-emission electrofuels in aviation and green hydrogen in shipping,” Todts added.
Transport is Europe’s biggest climate problem, representing more than a quarter (27%) of the bloc’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Transport emissions have gone up 30% since 1990 and are still rising. If the EU is to achieve its goal to move to a climate-neutral economy in 2050, the last diesel or petrol car should be sold by 2035 at the latest, with trucks following soon after.