European Commission set to establish post-2020 transport efficiency standards

Plans outlined in a leaked draft document from the European Commission (EC) to introduce efficiency standards for new cars, vans and trucks by the mid-2020s has been lauded as a "step in the right direction" by Transport & Environment (T&E).

A leaked draft of the European Strategy for Low-Emission Mobility report has revealed that the EC looks set to establish post-2020 standards for new vehicles across Europe in an effort to cut down transport emissions, which account for one-third of Europe’s total emissions.

The leaked document includes the “breakthrough announcement” that an efficiency standard framework will be produced for trucks, which have been stagnating for two decades in regards to fuel efficiency.

According to T&E, the truck standards are a welcome move. The US, China, Japan and Canada are already regulating truck fuel efficiency, and T&E has also praised the EC’s decision to “double down” its effort to cut truck emissions by enabling toll-discounts for low-carbon vehicles.

T&E executive director Jos Dings said: “This is a step in the right direction. Transport is the biggest source of CO2 and the primary cause of urban air pollution, so it cannot be allowed to undermine the progress being made in other sectors. The European Commission must avoid any watering down of the plan before it’s published.”

Future fuels

The report notes that European transport is 94% dependant on oil, and that in order to free itself from an “oil addiction” Member States of the European Union (EU) must establish policy frameworks for low-carbon vehicle infrastructure – such as electric charging stations – by November 2016.

The EC has also called on both the European Parliament and Council to “swiftly” adopt new fuel standard tests – which the EC has been “lobbying for” over the last few years – in order to lower emissions and lay to rest the recent swathe of emission scandals.

With figures from last year revealing that transport was the only sector to see emissions increase since 1970, The EC has called on Member States to accelerate Ultra-Low Emission Vehicles (ULEV) deployment.

The report calls on Member States to turn to public procurement to develop ULEV taxi and bus fleets, which are already proving popular in the UK. The EC believes that low-emission transport will pave the way for even cleaner energy supplies, and has called on fossil fuel companies to embrace this “opportunity”. The report also notes that vehicle-to-grid systems – currently being trialled by Nissan – could become an “integral” part of the energy system.

Fight or flight

Despite biofuels being heralded as an “essential” means to reduce emissions, T&E has called the Commissions continuation of food-based biofuels “regrettable”.  For T&E, the biggest disappointment from the report is the “complete lack of ambition” shown towards implementing an international shipping and aviation standard.

“The Commission is reasonably specific about its plans to reduce road transport emissions but is missing the chance to outline how aviation and shipping, which are the fastest growing share of Europe’s emissions, can contribute to decarbonisation. Europe’s climate ambition must cover all sectors, and all modes of transport,” Dings said.

With emissions in the aviation and shipping estimated to skyrocket by 250% without an international agreement, companies within the sectors have trialled ways to reduce emissions, but have admitted that a framework is needed to guide them.

However, with an International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) general assembly scheduled for this autumn, industry sources have claimed that an “eleventh hour” deal on emissions trading is being prepared for the aviation sector.

Matt Mace

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