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EU and US decarbonisation challenges on Parliament agenda at IRU dialogue
EU | Brussels

EU and US decarbonisation challenges on Parliament agenda at IRU dialogue

5 Dec 2023 · Environment

IRU brought together MEPs and trucking industry leaders from the United States in a decarbonisation dialogue at the European Parliament last week.  

In a dialogue inside the European Parliament in Brussels last week, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and senior figures from IRU member the American Trucking Associations (ATA) discussed, compared and contrasted commercial road transport decarbonisation approaches and challenges on both sides of the Atlantic.

The debate exchanged views on the challenges of decarbonising heavy-duty trucks, the development of CO2 standards for trucks, and the role of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) accounting in decarbonisation.

The dialogue took place at a crucial moment for the EU where legislators have just defined their positions on the future of heavy-duty fleets and are preparing for trilogue negotiations between the EU’s Council, Commission and Parliament.

The event was hosted by MEP Marian-Jean Marinescu, Vice-Chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) and Coordinator of the European People’s Party in the Committee on Transport and Tourism.

ATA, represented by Chris Spear, President and CEO, Andrew Boyle, ATA Chairman and Co-President of Boyle Transportation, and Robert Costello, Chief Economist and Senior Vice President, aimed to dispel the Californian “myth”. 

ATA demonstrated that California’s high standards and targets for electric vehicles are unrealistic with their aggressive timelines. The state is already beginning to see the early stages of failure with product shortages, low market acceptance and lack of charging infrastructure, which will lead to higher carbon and criteria emissions.  

“In our view, the European Union is ahead of the United States,” said ATA Chairman Andrew Boyle. "The European Union is more open to technology neutrality and alternative fuels, whereas California and some in the American federal government are much more prescriptive about technologies that are reliant on nonexistent infrastructure." 

Participants were unanimous in calling for pragmatic CO2 emission standards for heavy duty vehicles which consider operational, economic, and business realities. Both sides of the debate also emphasised the importance of technology neutrality and the need to recognise a wide range of alternative fuels as a solution towards decarbonisation in the sector. Concerns on the insufficient deployment of alternative fuelling infrastructure in both the US and EU, electricity grid capacity and costs were also cited. 

Raluca Marian, IRU’s Director of EU Advocacy, commented, “An early review clause of the CO2 standards in 2027, as proposed by both legislators, enabling targets to be reviewed and adjusted in line with the realities on the ground is welcomed by the commercial road transport sector.”

As for the upcoming negotiations, Raluca Marian expressed the hope that, “Pragmatic CO2 emission standards for heavy-duty vehicles should include a definition of CO2 neutral fuels and the possibility to take them into account for the new CO2 targets, as proposed by the European Parliament. It should also ensure that operators' freedom of choice is not compromised by mandatory purchasing targets for fleets.”  

The role of GHG emissions accounting in the transport sector was also discussed. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) established voluntary emissions reporting programmes for fleets, such as the EPA’s SmartWay Transport Partnership, to encourage participants to track fuel use and fleet emissions in supply chains. 

In the EU, the recent CountEmissions EU proposal aims to harmonise emission calculation methods and reporting in the sector aligning them on the ISO 14083 standard. Participants recognised the relevance and importance of reliable GHG emissions accounting, as it enables road transport operators to decrease their environmental footprint and increase their operational efficiency.

Comparing US and EU approaches to commercial road transport decarbonisation is inspiring and productive because the sector, on both sides of the Atlantic, is confronted with similar challenges and the need to share pragmatic workable solutions. IRU will continue cross-regional dialogues as part of its Green Compact to make the global sector carbon neutral by 2050.