New EU Transport Strategy: promising for freight emissions, but lacking on bioenergy, shipping and aviation

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Publish date: July 20, 2016

BRUSSELS – Today’s European Strategy for Low-Emission Mobility makes the EU ambition for road transport clear: future mobility in Europe will need to be low-emission in terms of carbon and air pollutants. Particularly promising are the proposals relating to the decarbonisation of freight, a sector with ever growing CO2 emissions, but stalled innovation. Disappointingly, however, suggestions for tackling emissions from shipping and aviation as well as progressing advanced biofuels remain unaddressed.

Hope for long-awaited action on decarbonising freight

Particularly welcome are the Commission’s proposals for decarbonising freight. CO2 emissions stemming from road freight are the fastest growing segment of land transport emissions both in the EU and globally. While in the EU trucks only make up less than 5% of all road vehicles, they are responsible for 25% of total CO2 emissions.

Unlike the US, China and Japan, Europe has had no fuel efficiency standards for trucks, which has resulted in limited innovation and a stable carbon footprint of trucks over the past two decades.

The Strategy offers hope of breaking this trend. It states the Commission’s intention of accelerating analytical work on design options for standards for heavy duty vehicles and announced an upcoming public consultation to lead up to the legislative proposal.

Bellona is happy to see the Commission’s commitment to enforcing fuel-efficiency standards for trucks. This will give a much-needed and well overdue impetus for investments in decarbonising and electrifying freight transport” comments Teodora Serafimova, Policy Adviser at Bellona Europa.

Bellona has long been of the opinion that we should strive to go beyond hybrid and ‘clean diesel’ to fully electric transport. The recent Dieselgate scandal only serves to reinforce the importance of doing this. Freight should not be an exception in this transition, and for this reason Bellona recently launched a battery company which will supply batteries for heavy duty vehicles and boats.

Building charging infrastructure for electric vehicles

Another important aspect of the communication relates to the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure (AFI) Directive which is to be taken into national policy in EU Member States by November 2016.

While strongly commending the Commission’s efforts on harmonising technologies and putting in place common EU standards for recharging infrastructure, one vital element is missing, namely further EU-level guidance in ensuring a uniform understanding and implementation of the directive. This is particularly important when it comes to the rather ambiguous definition of ‘publically accessible charging infrastructure’ provided by the directive, which is already resulting in conflicting interpretations and therefore varying approaches to implementation in different Member States.

It is important to keep in mind that the EV market is a fast moving environment where technological and business innovations should be facilitated and promoted in order to create a competitive market where services and products are constantly improved to the benefit of end-users. Allowing for and promoting further technological advancements and innovation in particularly when it comes to fast charging is crucial in extending electric vehicles’ range and rendering them a viable substitute to fossil cars.

Services beyond physical charging infrastructure

The communication goes on to acknowledge that interoperability should go beyond the physical charging infrastructure to aspects such as payment solutions and the provision of real-time information on charging points. This is one example where the EU could draw lessons from the Norwegian experience. Norway’s state-owned entity Enova makes its funding to charging stations conditional upon their provision of real-time updates on availability as well as pay-as-you-go payment solutions.

Bellona has sought to export some of these best practices from Norway onto the EU arena, through its memberships in the Platform for Electro-mobility as well as the Commission expert group on Electro-mobility market of services.

The Platfrom for Electro-mobility has issued a joint statement in response to the Commission’s strategy which can be viewed here: E-mobilityPlatform_LowEmissionStrategy_final

Direction for biofuel still needed

While welcoming the Commission’s acknowledgement of the need to look into the phase out of land-based biofuels and their substitution with more advanced biofuels, Bellona calls on EU leadership to issue clearer direction and therefore encourage research and investment into third generation biofuels. Bellona’s work on bioenergy has sought to focus attention on truly innovative sources of bioenergy, in particular to the oceans and seaweed.

Bellona sees the conclusion of the world’s first ever cap on greenhouse gas emissions from commercial aircraft as a catalyst for the uptake of sustainably sourced biofuels, specifically from marine sources. These would be a pre-condition to meeting the cap in a sustainable manner.

Unfortunately, however, aviation and shipping continue to be the unaddressed elephants in the room. The communication fails to deliver any concrete proposals for tackling emissions from these sectors, which have observed alarming upward trends over the past years and have remained.

The full document is available here.