Transport and the need for efficiency

By Seán KELLY, MEP (EPP Group), Member of the ITRE Committee

As I return, at the time of writing, from the COP24 Climate Conference in Katowice, it is quite evident to me, as if this wasn’t already blatantly obvious, that we need significant emissions cuts across the board  across all sectors if we are to stand a chance of meeting the 1.5oC or 2oC targets.

Looking at the different emitting sectors in the EU, we see evidence of progress. Even if some member states lag behind in certain areas, generally it is clear that big strides have been made in renewable energy, in energy efficiency, and in the reduction of emissions from our industrial sectors in recent years.

One area in which insufficient progress has been made, however, is transport.

We badly need to find ways to increase the efficiency of our transport sector and make big improvements to its emissions performance.

Emissions are not declining in the EU Transport sector; levels are now around 25% higher than they were in 1990, and road transport remains responsible for close to 80% of oil consumption in the EU.

Additionally, the average CO2 emissions from new passenger cars increased in 2017 (119 g/km, up from 118 g/km in 2016), something that is frankly astonishing given the pressing need for reductions in the sector. It is clear that greater action is badly needed.

Thankfully, at EU level at least, these actions are now being taken and I strongly welcome the Commission’s recent initiatives which aim to improve the emissions performance of the sector.

In December, a deal was reached on the hugely important Regulation on CO2 Standards for Cars and Vans. The agreed text ensures new cars will have 37.5% fewer emissions in 2030, while vans will have 31% fewer.

This is a great result as it will better empower Member States to meet their 2030 non-ETS emissions reductions targets, improve air quality, and reduce fuel consumption costs through increased efficiencies.

I congratulate the Parliament rapporteurs, the Austrian Presidency, and indeed Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete on a fantastic result, and I look forward to seeing it being translated into real actions in the coming years.

These provisions regulating the vehicles themselves nicely complements our work undertaken during the negotiations on the new Renewable Energy Directive (REDII), which I was proud to negotiate on behalf of the EPP Group earlier this year.

During these discussions, the goal of the European Parliament was to push for significantly increased ambition on the level of sustainable renewable energy in the transport sector.

While Council’s General Approach unfortunately meant that the Bulgarian Presidency had quite an inflexible negotiating position on these points, we were able to agree on two important areas that needed increased incentives: advanced biofuels and electric vehicles.

Advanced biofuels are all about resource efficiency  there is huge potential for us to decarbonise our transport fuels by blending sustainable advanced biofuels from wastes and residues, thus creating a market for these feedstock, boosting innovation in the development of new alternative fuels, and displacing more and more fossil fuels from our transport mix.

With the new blending obligation, these fuels are given the needed incentive to be an important element in the decarbonisation of our transport sector.

REDII also gives a much needed boost for the deployment of electric vehicles, building on the important provisions on mandatory EV charging infrastructure in the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive.

REDII gives electric vehicles a multiplier of 5 in the transport obligation in line with the comparative increases in efficiency over combustion engines that electric vehicles can reach.

This has now been added to with an important incentive scheme in the CO2 standards for cars and vans agreement for countries with low levels of EV deployment, and both these provisions will give a big incentive to Member States to support EVs. The large scale roll-out of EVs is necessary if we are to decarbonise our transport sector; it is a matter of if, rather than when, and at EU level the frameworks are being put in place.

It is now up to Member States to show ambition in their National Climate and Energy Plans.

All of this makes our transport system more energy efficient, but it is important to also highlight that work is underway at EU level on other related actions which can also play an important part in this.

The digital agenda has been one of the most important policy areas in Brussels in recent years as we have worked to move towards a Digital Single Market.

The potential in this for improving the efficiency of the transport sector through digitalisation is clear and it is vital that the EU remains at the forefront of innovations that make our transport modes more connected and digitalised.

Increased connectivity and greater automation of driving, for example, has the potential to make mobility safer, cleaner, more accessible and more efficient.

For this reason I welcome the Commission’s “Europe on the Move” initiatives, particularly the significant related funding allocations that have been included in the recent proposals for the 2021-2027 Multi-annual Financial Framework.

€300 million has been allocated in Horizon Europe for the development of automated vehicles, while €450 million has been allocated under the Connecting Europe Facility for the digitalisation of transport.

If anything, these amounts could be increased, but it is a good start that I hope it can give a much needed boost to innovation in this area.

To conclude, it is clear that transport is a sector that requires policy attention.

We have not seen the level of emissions reductions in transport that is needed, however I welcome the actions that are now underway, and look forward to finalising the outstanding issues in the coming months.