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The road ahead to be Fit for 55
EU | Brussels

The road ahead to be Fit for 55

30 May 2022 · Environment

The timely deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure across the EU, and smart taxation and charges, which encourage operators to decarbonise, are paramount for successfully decarbonising road transport.

Raluca Marian is the Director EU Advocacy and General Delegate of IRU’s Permanent Delegation to the European Union.

Collective passenger transport is a decarbonisation tool in its own right. Yes, it groups people and moves them away from private cars. But it would bring even further benefits if cleaner vehicles and fuels were readily available across the EU.

Greening road freight fleets is also crucial given that road transport by road represents over 75% of the EU’s overland goods transport. What is more, there are realistically no chances of a massive shift to other transportation modes, even in the distant future.

Almost one year after the launch of the ambitious Fit for 55 Package, discussions between the European Parliament and the Council are at an advanced stage on the legislative proposals to boost decarbonisation in the EU.

Three of those are fundamental for the decarbonisation of road transport: the proposal for a regulation on alternative fuels infrastructure (AFIR), the inclusion of road transport in the scope of the emissions trading scheme (ETS II) and the revision of the energy taxation directive (ETD). Are these proposals heading in the right direction?

The green transition of the coming decade will require an enormous effort: about 1 million transport companies in the EU use over 35 million vehicles, of which approximately 7 million are heavy-duty vehicles.

As zero-emission vehicles are starting to hit the market, it is imperative to roll out an alternative fuels infrastructure across the EU. This means making alternative fuels widely available and providing a strong grid to deliver enough power to charge an increasing number of electric vehicles.

The European Commission’s AFIR was a good starting point in terms of the ambition required to decarbonise goods and passenger road transport. Yet, while the European Parliament seems determined to go even further, we see a risk in the Council’s timid approach, in particular for heavy-duty vehicles. A less ambitious outcome would be a significant setback in achieving the objectives of the European Green Deal.

We know that the taxation and charging structures proposed by ETS II and ETD can act as a strong incentive for rapid decarbonisation. The only condition is that they go hand in hand with an alternative fuels infrastructure and wider availability of zero-emission vehicles. It would work even better if the revenues collected (particularly through ETS II) were used to invest in the decarbonisation of road transport. Unfortunately, the European Parliament’s committee reporting on this file (ENVI) has recently reached a weak compromise, which will fail to deliver a fit-for-purpose ETS II.

ENVI proposes the almost immediate introduction of commercial vehicles in the scope of ETS II, leaving aside private road users. Not only does this ignore the 300 million private vehicles producing more than 70% of road transport CO2 emissions, but it is also an impractical, largely unenforceable system.

Not to mention the strong counterproductive signal to EU citizens and businesses against the vital role of public transport, collective mobility and efficient goods transportation in greening our roads.

In conclusion, the European Union’s decarbonisation plans for road transport will only be successful with good timing and appropriate incentives. Vehicles, fuel infrastructure and fuel availability need to be taken into consideration together. Road transport operators need a motivating stimulus to initiate the transition, including through smart taxation and gradually introduced charges.

Today, with the legislative process in full gear, we are still hopeful. We call on the Council to embrace ambitious targets for alternative fuels infrastructure, and the European Parliament to vote against a weak compromise on ETS II, which currently fails to deliver on its promise.