July 09, 2008
Greening of transport: CLECAT, ESC and the IRU assess the European Commission proposals
Industry groups representing freight forwarders, shippers and the road transport industry are concerned by the "Greening of Transport" package published yesterday by the European Commission.
Brussels - The European freight forwarders’ association (CLECAT), the European Shippers’ Council (ESC) and the International Road Transport Union (IRU) in recognition that transport demand will continue to grow in the coming decades have for a long time taken sustainable development very seriously and developed individual and joint programs to tackle this challenge. It is strongly believed that this challenge is a shared responsibility and therefore calls for both the Commission and other industries to join the sustainability challenge on equal terms.
The policy tools such as the instrument to internalise external costs through road pricing as proposed by the Commission will not be a sufficient guarantee to achieve sustainability and will thus not reach the aim of reducing the external effects of transport. Environmental benefits from introducing higher charges will be minimal as freight will need to be moved regardless of additional charges.
CLECAT, ESC and the IRU are of the opinion that the policy as it stands will simply make road transport and thus the goods transported more expensive with a marginal environmental impact. Road transport is the only practical and viable mode of transporting goods to their end destination; in the majority of cases, reliable and realistic alternatives do not exist, even when alternatives are technically possible. Despite price pressures, the demand for road freight services will increase further in the coming decades. Experience suggests that when road freight costs go up, other modes will follow suit, thus neutralising any potential cost ‘advantage’ they may otherwise have gained, fuelling inflation at a time when we are already experiencing increased costs and declining markets.
The package on “greening transport” falls disappointingly short of innovative policy thinking. Since the 2001 White Paper, the Commission has pursued a modal shift, by proposing pricing instruments or capping strategies to curb the growth of transport. The 2006 mid-term review of this policy gave birth to the co-modality concept, which considers all modes operating together to provide sustainable transport solutions, whereas yesterday’s proposal once again drives a wedge between the modes.
CLECAT, ESC and the IRU are of the opinion that the new Commission initiative will not help the current drive towards cleaner engines, lower emissions and more efficient freight transport in any way. There is a common concern that the principle of strict earmarking may not be finally adopted, thus failing to achieve the goal of addressing externalities altogether.
Commenting on the Commission Communication, ESC Secretary General Nicolette van der Jagt said: “The main issue is that the EC wish to address congestion in order to tackle local pollution (air and noise) and also emissions of GHGs such as CO2 - and yet their hands are being tied by members states - such that they can only suggest rather than mandate that the internalising of such costs should be extended to the private vehicle sector - the part of road transport that contributes the lion share of CO2, congestion and noise impacts on society! How ironic is that?!”
Bertil Dahlin, President of the IRU EU Goods Transport Liaison Committee, added, “We recognise that transport like any human activity causes externalities, which we all have a shared responsibility to mitigate now and in the future. As a matter of fact, the road transport industry has taken effective “at source” technical measures and adopted operational practices that have, for instance, reduced the fuel consumption of commercial vehicles by 36% since 1970 and toxic emissions by 97%. The Commission should have introduced a sound and objective cost-benefit analysis based on the Cheapest Cost Avoider principle as a prerequisite for internalising external costs, which would ensure that externalities would be reduced at source with a truly sustainable outcome.”
Marco Sorgetti, Director General of CLECAT said: “We cannot cut back on demand for road transport, as there are no realistic alternatives. Today’s proposals from the Commission, in spite of their optimistic business-as-usual tone, require considerable caution: they stem from observations carried out in a different economic climate. Today, with higher logistics costs, the risk of stagflation and economic decline, the last thing we need is an additional spin, when the wheel is turning too fast already.”
Finally, CLECAT, ESC and the IRU repeat that they have all called on the Commission to apply the internalisation of external costs simultaneously to ALL modes of transport. Until there is equal and neutral treatment in all modes, with equivalent measures (in proportion to the externalities of each mode), they see no justification for the urgency to place additional charges on road freight with a rushed revision of the Eurovignette directive.
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IRU: Juliette Ebélé, +41 22 918 27 07, Press@iru.org
ESC: Nicolette van der Jagt, +32 2 23 02 113, firstname.lastname@example.org
CLECAT: Marco L. Sorgetti, +32 2 50 34 705, email@example.com