Europe commits to leading decarbonisation in land, sea and air transport

Europe must put an end to CO2 emissions in transport by 2050. This was the statement provided by the European Commission last 28 November, when introducing a new long-term climate strategy, just one day after a report by the transport association Transport & Environment (T&E) concluded that transport decarbonisation in Europe is necessary and also feasible.

The document presented by the European Commission, “A Clean Planet for All”, sets forth the proposal that most approaches the Paris Agreement’s objectives, achieving zero emissions. This entails a radical transformation in all sectors and activities in society and lays the foundation for a more specific plan that should be ready by 2020.

For the transport sector, this means that cars with combustion engines and lorries must be progressively eliminated in 2030, and the use of fossil fuels must be entirely uprooted. William Todts, executive director of T&E, highlighted the need to get started: “if we want to achieve zero in 2050, we need to take action now.”

CO2-free transport, a priority for Europe

In this race toward a future where oil and coal are a thing of the past, transport, which accounts for around 25% of CO2 emissions in the EU, plays an essential role. Not for nothing, transport is the greatest climate issue in Europe, with a 28% increase in emissions in the sector since 1990. This means that this is the factor that, until now, has been most unable to control itself, as opposed to industry, agriculture, electricity and waste.

The meeting “How to decarbonise transport: Transport & Environment’s 2050 vision”, held 27 November in Brussels, confirmed the thesis that the future of transport must take the path of decarbonisation. At this meeting, Transport & Environment presented the conclusions of a research work proving that decarbonisation is necessary and possible for all modes of transport.

The report makes this need clear, for all different kinds of transport: land, air and sea. This research is to meet the challenge for Europe set for 2050, which was shown to be feasible by this new report.

Leaving oil behind in transport means halting climate change and cleaning our air, but also gaining energy independence and increasing European competitiveness. In the words of William Todts, executive director at T&E, “as the largest fossil fuel importer in the world, the EU has great economic interest in a strategy that is essentially based on leaving oil behind”.

Technicians ask for greater commitment

The European Union has set a priority that was technically endorsed by several studies, but now it is time for Member State governments to take action. The next date marked in red to draw up a plan with more specific measures in in 2020.

In any event, the strategy presented by Europe leans on heavy use of biomass, which T&E believes to be unsustainable, since it must largely be imported from outside the EU. The transport federation’s analysis is invested in combining batteries and hydrogen for road transport and ships, as well as synthetic fuels for planes.

There are concerning data, such as the fact that greenhouse gas emissions from ocean traffic have increased by one-fifth since 1990, while air traffic emissions have doubled. T&E believes that this is unacceptable, given that we have the technology to drastically reduce emissions, but the EU must take action, since, in its opinion, the “ICAO and the IMO, the United Nations agencies in charge of these two sectors, are not complying”.

As far as  road transport is concerned, T&E believes that European leaders must also set their sights higher in regulating cars, lorries and vans if they wish to meet the objective for 2050, which is attainable if the European Commission falls in line with the most ambitious plans driven by the European Parliament for new CO2 standards for vehicles.

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