Reduce CO2 emissions on transport by new services provides by digitalization

By Henna Virkkunen, MEP (EPP Group - Finland), Member of the ITRE and TRAN Committee’s

The Mobility sector is vital for the EU’s economy and society. Mobility is a necessity. Up until the COVID-19 pandemic, people and goods moved across Europe more than ever. Even though it is impossible to predict the aftermath of the pandemic, it is probable that this mobility trend will continue in the future. It is estimated that passenger transport will grow by more than 40 per cent by 2050 compared to 2010, whereas freight transport is expected to grow by 60 per cent.

Simultaneously, the EU has committed to meet ambitious climate targets. Transport sector is amongst the biggest emitters as the sector accounts for 25% of all CO2 emissions in Europe. 94 % of transport still relies on oil products. Air pollution causes 20 % more deaths worldwide compared to 1990. It is clear that we need significant reductions of emissions, not mobility.

While mobility is indispensable for our society, it does not come without disadvantages. These include greenhouse gas emissions, air, noise and water pollution, road accidents, congestion, and loss of biodiversity.

To address these issues, The Commission introduced a Mobility Strategy in December 2020. The main objective of the strategy is to make the European transport system sustainable, smart and resilient. A 90 % reduction in transport-related emissions is needed to fulfil the EU Climate neutrality target to make the EU the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. The sustainability objective can be achieved through making all modes of transport more sustainable, make such alternatives widely available and create the right incentives to enhance the transition.

The basic premise of the strategy is that mobility should be available and affordable to all, irrespective of their location. All regions should remain connected. Moreover, the transport sector should ensure good social conditions to its workers.

In addition, it lays down milestones for the years 2030, 2035 and 2050. For example, by 2030, at least 30 million zero-emission cars will be in operation on European roads and 100 European cities will be climate neutral.

By 2035, zero-emission large aircraft will be ready for market. By 2050, nearly all vehicles will be zero-emission and a Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) will be operational.

Digitalisation is the key in achieving these ambitious targets. The EU budget of 2021 to 2027 will allocate investments towards improving infrastructure and digitalisation through the Connecting Europe Facility.

In addition, the Commission introduced the Fit for 55- package in July 2021 that includes demanding targets for all modes of transport. It is important that the result of the negotiations between the EU institutions result in an economically sustainable solution that ensures the competitiveness of European industry and reduces emissions effectively. Digitalisation has a pivotal role in scaling up the whole chain of logistics and the transport system.

New innovations in mobility technologies can be expected in the near future. While such innovations are vital, it is important to concentrate on combining the most effective measures available in order to meet the targets and create the best possible environment for seamless and effective mobility. Digitalisation and automation offer great opportunities for the sector to tackle the challenges as well as boost the competitiveness of European industry. They are crucial for ensuring that the EU maintains its leadership in transport manufacturing.

In the short and medium term, it is clear that EU will still have to rely on conventional vehicles, while cleaner technologies develop. To drive innovative mobility solutions and competitiveness even further and to create platforms for cooperation between stakeholders, further investments in research and innovation are necessary.

The transport sector has been greatly influenced by online platforms in recent years. Many new mobility services have emerged in the form of online platforms. Online platforms are strong drivers of innovation and play an important role in Europe’s digital society and economy. They increase consumer choice, improve efficiency and competitiveness of industry and can enhance civil participation in society. More than a million enterprises in EU trade through online platforms. Here also a level playing field, innovation-friendly environment and future-proof digital infrastructure are keys to success. The EU is currently in the process of negotiating a historical digital services package, consisting of the Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act (DMA), to be finalised in 2022.

Furthermore, there are many questions to be solved regarding the access and ownership of data. Open data is a key to make digitalised mobility services function seamlessly. Cybersecurity is also a challenge to be tackled as the transport system becomes more digitised and connected.

The EU can, and in my opinion should, set global standards for big data, artificial intelligence and automation.

What is crucial for the mobility sector to prosper is that we have to make sure that regulation and financing is innovation-friendly. It is important not only to encourage innovation but also give long-term perspective and legal certainty to entrepreneurs and investors. Europe needs to be a place where new ideas can be created and innovations can flourish. With joint action at the EU, Member State, regional and local level in collaboration with industry and stakeholders, Europe can be a global leader in future mobility.