Towards a carbon-free transport sector

By Cora VAN NIEUWENHUIZEN, Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management, Netherlands

The transition towards zero-emission transport is both necessary and irreversible. Necessary, because transport accounts for 30% of all CO2 emissions worldwide and traffic volumes will continue to grow sharply over the coming decades.

Irreversible, because more and more of the transport sector’s customers are demanding sustainable shipping of their products. Of course, there is still a lot to do.

The sector is made up of a diverse range of outfits, from large transport companies and airlines to small family businesses that carry freight on inland waterways. There is also a wide range of alternative fuel options on offer.

But since the Paris Agreement our climate goals have been crystal clear.

Industries like aviation and maritime shipping have come to realise that they too will need to make some significant changes to how they operate. Partly of course because we want to ensure clean air and a liveable planet for future generations.

But also because there is a compelling business case for investment in clean transport and alternative fuels.

Investing in a green future also means investing in a healthy and competitive European economy.

We can achieve most by following a robust policy aimed at tackling the problem at source. So we advocate strict standards and requirements to ensure all modes of transport are clean. But strict standards alone will not enable us to achieve our climate goals.

A genuine green transition requires a systemic leap that will in turn require the involvement of all stakeholders, from customers to producers. And we will need to adopt an international approach, given the international dimensions of the transport sector, involving individual member states, the European Union and global organisations; all stakeholders across supply chains; and the transport, energy and ICT sectors.

Because the task and the challenges we face are immense.

The strategy agreed last month within the International Maritime Organization is a good example of how international agreements can be forged. The Netherlands applauds the target of cutting total CO2 emissions from international shipping by 50% by 2050.

It will spur the sector on to invest further in clean fuels and develop technological innovations. In the Netherlands we recently signed the ‘Nijmegen Declaration’ with the inland shipping sector, in which the sector pledges to reduce CO2 emissions by 20% by 2030 through the use of clean fuels.

This is an illustration of how a national government can make greening arrangements with specific industries.

The Netherlands is convinced that cooperation between national governments and industries will enable us to make significant progress in Europe. The European Commission and individual member states do not possess a magic wand enabling them to make the necessary changes by themselves.

Government will have to work with the sector to make heavy goods vehicles, aircraft, seagoing vessels and inland waterway vessels cleaner and more energy-efficient.

Sustainable technologies and innovations will play a key role in these endeavours.

Fundamental, industrial and experimental research are crucial in this regard. R&D cooperation, like the ‘ERA-NET Cofund to further advance electric mobility in Europe: the Electric Mobility Europe initiative’, brings together the scientific community, industry and governments from 12 countries to learn about developments in electric public transport, clean freight and the necessary IT systems.

By using European cofinancing funds for alternative fuels, we are accelerating the roll-out of the associated infrastructure for high-speed charging, hydrogen and biofuels. Working together means jointly removing the obstacles and enhancing Europe’s competitiveness, rather than 28 countries each reinventing the wheel.

Perhaps you can move more quickly acting alone, but together we can go further. This applies to many modes of transport. Take inland shipping, for example. Imposing an obligation on the inland shipping sector to blend biofuels  an obligation for the fleet as a whole rather than individual vessels would deliver considerable climate gains in Europe.

Towards the end of 2018 we will see the first fully electric inland waterway vessels coming into service in the Netherlands.

The European Commission provided a helping hand by making a grant available. Hydrogen fuel cells will also feature prominently in future transport solutions. We will be conducting a pilot in the Netherlands next year involving shippers and carriers in inland shipping, research institutions and government.

This is a good example of the kind of partnerships that can help us make progress. The next step will be a joint project with other European countries.

In aviation, the Netherlands will work to ensure participation by as many countries as possible in the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA).

The Emissions Trading System will have to be adjusted accordingly. The Netherlands also seeks to encourage the development of biokerosene in aviation in Europe.

But we can also achieve considerable reductions in CO2 and noise nuisance through smart design of the European airspace. In the road haulage sector the Netherlands will continue to urge strict standards and requirements and will forge alliances with the more ambitious countries.

European heavy goods vehicle manufacturers are slowly starting to experiment with clean and fuel-efficient vehicles. But if we want to see them going into mass production we

will need to further encourage and reward sustainable product development by means of strict standards, innovations and financial incentives. In addition, we need more intelligent logistics.

Carrying more freight by water or by rail means fewer lorries on the road. And many goods vehicles on Europe’s highways are only using part of their load capacity. This is an area where we can do better.

The European transport and logistics sector is a vital cog in a competitive European economy.

I’m convinced that investing in low and zero-emission transport will make us more competitive globally. Obviously we won’t complete this transition overnight. But this is a common challenge that we have to solve together.

This is true of all sectors, and transport is no exception. The Netherlands, which has long had a strong transport and logistics sector, is keen to work with other EU member states and the Commission so that we can rise to this challenge.