Transport poses today major societal challenges related to congestion, greenhouse gas emissions and quality of air that are growing concerns in Europe. The European Green Deal emphasises that transport must become ‘drastically less polluting’ – by 90% compared to current levels – if we are to make genuine progress in reducing emissions and puts Europe on track to be the first carbon-neutral continent by 2050. The Commission adopted in December 2020 the Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy to ensure that the EU transport sector is fit for a clean, digital and modern economy. Objectives include increasing the uptake of zero-emission vehicles, vessels and aircraft and making sustainable alternative solutions available to the public & businesses.
Although it is growing rapidly, the proportion of low- and zero-emission road vehicles in the vehicle fleet is far too low today. Standards on CO2, air pollutant emissions, and public procurement rules will continue to be key policy-drivers in our transition towards zero-emission mobility in road transport and through the increased supply of zero-emission vehicles, it will make sustainable mobility more affordable for all. The aim is to have at least 30 million zero-emission cars in operation on European roads by 2030 and nearly all cars, vans, buses as well as new heavy-duty vehicles will be zero-emission 2050. The partnerships envisaged for Horizon Europe, such as ‘Batteries’, ‘2Zero’, ‘Clean Aviation’ and ‘Clean Hydrogen’, will contribute to the supply of innovative vehicle technologies. At the same time, a comprehensive policy is needed to stimulate demand for zero emission vehicles, without barriers across our single market, while fully respecting the Union’s international obligations.
Electrified railways are already today extremely energy efficient with very low carbon emissions. However, a significant amount of rail operation is today performed with diesel traction. The challenges to replace diesel with zero emission traction systems are similar as for road trucks. Pure battery operation would require very heavy batteries or frequent recharging. Can hydrogen be a viable alternative?
Air and waterborne transport have greater decarbonisation challenges in the next decades due to current lack of market ready zero-emission technologies, long development and life cycles of aircraft and vessels, the required significant investments in refueling equipment and infrastructure, and international competition in these sectors. EU international emissions from navigation and aviation have grown by more than 50% since 1990. Action in these sectors is urgently needed.
An enabling environment should be created, including adequate carbon pricing policies and research and innovation (R&I) through the partnerships that are put in place under Horizon Europe such ‘Zero Emission Waterborne Transport’, ‘Clean Aviation’ and ‘Clean Hydrogen’. The aim is to have zero-emission marine vessels to be market-ready by 2030 and zero-emission large aircraft will be market-ready by 2035. The Europe’s Rail institutional partnership will contribute to a smart and sustainable future, by creating a European railway system that enables the shift of freight to rail, Rail freight traffic will double by 2050 and high-speed rail traffic will double already by 2030.
Europe also needs to end the persistent fragmentation and pervasive lack of interoperable recharging/refueling services across Europe for all modes. The expected major uptake of battery-electric vehicles and other forms of e-mobility requires the smooth integration into the electricity grid. The deployment of smart recharging infrastructure will help to provide storage capacity and flexibility to the electricity system.
Supporting the transport policy objectives set out in the Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy and in the Efficient and Green Mobility Package, the aim of the session is to first do a stock taking on where we stand and where we realistically are heading in the four sectors of road, rail, water and air transport. After that the session will focus on the next necessary steps to make sure Europe meets the targets set.
The expected outcome of the session is a stocktaking on where we stand on the road to sustainable transport and what the necessary next steps are.
*to be confirmed