Vehicle emissions standard forms ‘centrepiece’ of EU’s low-carbon vision

A new legislative proposal from the European Union (EU) that creates binding targets for Member States to reduce emissions in the transport, buildings, agriculture, waste, land-use and forestry sectors will hinge on the ability to accelerate low-carbon technology and fuels in the automotive industry.

That is the view of industry experts who have responded to the EU’s Strategy for Low-Emission Mobility, which has been heralded as the main catalyst to the Union’s overall framework to reduce emissions in sectors outside of the Emissions Trading System.

The new legislative approach includes a 2021-2030 timeframe for the aforementioned sectors to contribute to climate action. With transport’s contribution towards global emissions growing from 11% in 1970 to 28% in 2014, the Low-Emission Mobility strategy will act as a deciding factor, but only if the European Commission can “deliver on its promises”.  

Video: EurActiv (an edie content content partner)

Transport & Environment (T&E) hailed the announcement of new CO2 standards for cars and vans as a “step in the right direction”. Commenting on last week’s leaked draft version of the report, T&E claimed that a Europe-first emissions standard for trucks was a “breakthrough”.

“Today the Commission distributes the EU emission reduction target for 2030 to member states, and promises European action on transport to give them a helping hand,” T&E’s executive director Jos Dings said.

“This is a good plan but whether it works will depend on how effectively the promises are delivered. Cutting transport CO2 emissions will not only tackle climate change but also address energy dependence, cut energy bills and create jobs.”

Transition in unison

With Member States aiming to collectively reduce emissions by at least 40% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, the EU is calling on nations to remedy growing emission rates from transport through a number of initiatives.

The European Commission (EC) is calling on nations to implement new technologies and smart pricing systems to encourage an uptake in low-emission transport modes. The rise in electric vehicles (EV) can also act as a catalyst for other alternative energy modes of transport, with the EC placing its faith in bio and synthetic fuels.

The EC claims that cities and local authorities must be at the forefront of this shift by encouraging sharing mobility schemes to reduce congestion and pollution, while also investing in low-carbon infrastructure to create an enabling environment for low-carbon transport.

In order to incentivise this movement for nations, the EU is opening up €70bn in funding revenues under the European Fund for Strategic Investment, while Horizon2020 is matching its energy efficiency funding with a €6.4m pot for low-carbon mobility projects.

Brexit conundrum

However, with the UK’s impending decision to leave the EU creating waves of uncertainty across the continent, the announcement of the new 2030 goals has added to the ambiguity of the UK’s role inside of the Union.

“Due to the outcome of the EU referendum, today’s proposal presents the UK’s non-traded sector with much uncertainty as to whether they will be obligated to play a part in achieving these targets,” EEF’s head of energy and climate policy Claire Jakobsson said.

“If the UK is no longer to be bound by the EU’s Effort Sharing agreement in the future, it will be the sole gift of the UK Government as to how to best set and implement carbon targets for these sectors.

“There is clearly also a question about our future participation in the EU ETS. If our EU climate responsibilities are to lessen in the years ahead there will be greater pressure on the UK Government to ensure the targets and policies it implements independently are compatible with industrial competitiveness and maximise the benefits to UK manufacturers in low carbon supply chains.”

Transport transformation

With EVs set to account for 35% of all car sales by 2040 – or 100% by 2030 if you believe Richard Branson –  the association of the electricity industry in Europe EURELECTRIC has called on non-ETS sectors outside of transport to electrify their energy systems in order to accelerate the uptake of EVs.

“The time has come to recognise the many positive effects a fuel switch to electricity in the non-ETS sectors can imply when it is paralleled with the decarbonisation of the power sector,” EURELECTRIC’s secretary general Hans ten Berge said.

“As the power sector delivers increasingly decarbonised electricity to consumers, electro-mobility becomes the obvious choice for driving low-emission transport. EURELECTRIC believes that it is high time that the electrification of transport becomes a prominent part of EU policy.”

The Commission’s decision to continue to support the use of biofuels – which is still raising question marks among green campaigners – has been welcomed by the Leaders of Sustainable Biofuels (LSB). LSB is a coalition of companies including DONG Energy, Biochemtex and British Airways that supports the development of second generation biofuels in Europe.

LSB has suggested that a “predictable business environment” will be a necessity to trigger substantial investment into biofuels. The group has called on the EU to set a binding target to blend biofuels into the energy mix by 2030 – with an interim target set for 2025.

Sky’s the limit

Biofuels has already staked a claim in the aviation fuel mix, and has been branded as “essential” in reducing transport emissions by the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA). But with emissions in the aviation and shipping estimated to skyrocket by 250% without an international agreement, an uptake in biofuels – currently being trialled by private companies – needs to be accelerated. T&E has called on the EU to ensure that emission cuts from vehicles aren’t replaced by an increase in emissions from aviation and shipping.

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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