Investing in a sustainable future of mobility: Why the EU must remain open-minded to the various technical solutions

Slowing down global warming might be the greatest challenge for our generation. To this end, the European Parliament passed an unprecedented climate law this year committing the Union to climate neutrality by 2050 and setting the very ambitious goal of achieving a reduction in carbon emissions of 55% by 2030. A transformation of unparalleled scale and scope. On the way to net-zero the European Union must ensure that its economy remains strong and robust by setting the right legislative incentives. Especially our European SMEs – hidden champions of global significance – must remain competitive against external players.

A large driver for emissions is the transportation sector. However, it is in nobody’s interest to limit our mobility. Consequently, the EU needs to reduce the emissions among the entire mobility portfolio, leaving no stone unturned. Boosting the uptake of low- and zero-emission vehicles, coupled with the mass-scale production of renewable and low-carbon fuels, should be our number one priority. While it is evident that electric vehicles will play a key role on the road to carbon-neutral mobility, it is im-portant to remain open to all possible technological solutions.

While the mobility sector is growing rapidly, the current proportion of low-and zero-emission vehicles remains very low. Therefore, the EU proposes various measures to accelerate the growth of the low-emission sector.

One crucial step is building the necessary infrastructure of EV-charging points. But we must insist on technology neutrality, giving hydrogen, synthetic fuels, and e-fuels a chance. Above all, life-cycle assessments should be taken into consideration more closely as vehicles’ carbon impact should be determined based on the entire value chain and not only based on the expulsion.

Railroads need to be part of the solution in Europe as well. Therefore, the EU declared the year 2021 the “European Year of Rail,” placing the spotlight on the most sustainable and safest mode of transport to date. Rail is largely electrified and emits far less CO2 compared to road and airborne transportation.

With the EU`s successful program “Discover EU”, that the EPP has been supporting for years, thousands of young Europeans were empowered to explore the fascinating diversity of Europe by making use of a free 30-day train ticket.

These young people, became true ambassadors of the European railroad system and low-emission mobility.

However, trains are not the answers to all environmental challenges. Especially for citizens living in rural areas, individual mobility, e.g., cars, remains the only feasible solution. The EU must take the social impact of the transformation for citizens in all parts of the EU – be it rural or urban – duly into account. The proposed Social Climate Fund, supporting the citizens most affected by energy and mobility poverty, is a welcome step to ensure that no one is left behind. However, more thought needs to be put in how to counter the social consequences of the green transition.

In any case, the mobility transformation should follow the principle of innovation – not limitation. Therefore, the EU should remain open-minded to the various technical solutions.

An Innovation Fund will provide up to 20 billion Euros until 2030 to support the necessary breakthrough solutions in the areas of, e.g., renewables, energy storage, and carbon capture to unlock Europe’s carbon-neutral future. The first 118 million Euros have been awarded to 32 innovation projects in 14 member states. Here, we need to pick up the pace.

Another crucial tool on the road to carbon neutrality is the Emissions Trading System (ETS). The ETS is a proven market-driven mechanism that should be extended to both the mobility and buildings sectors. The ETS is a cost-effective tool that can serve as a blueprint for other nations around the globe. At the same time, the ETS system ensures openness to all technology, as the cleanest technology prevails.

In conclusion, the success of the European Green Deal is inextricably linked to the transport sector, which needs to become truly sustainable. At the same time, the so-cial dimension is essential and should not be forgotten. The European Union can only succeed if the EU citizens unite behind a common agenda based on clean and affordable mobility. And we are only able to achieve that if we stay open-minded to all the various technical solutions available.