On Thursday 27 October, the European Parliament, the European Commission and the EU Council reached a final agreement on cutting pollutant emissions from cars and vans from 2035. The agreement of the ‘trilogue’, the usual informal meeting between representatives of the European Parliament, the European Council and the Commission that is preparatory to brokered agreements, is expected to be the final one to be included in the Fit for 55. The intention behind the agreement is to achieve the goal of zero emissions by 2035, through a methodology (to be presented by the Commission accompanied by legislative proposals by 2025) that provides for the assessment and reporting of CO2 emissions data based on the life cycle of passenger cars and vans sold on the European market. This monitoring system will measure the differential between emission limit values and actual fuel consumption data so that the manufacturer can adjust the average emission specification from 2030 onwards.
The European Environment Agency estimates the impact of transport on the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions at around 30 per cent, and the EU Commission strongly wanted an agreement before the UN Climate Change Conference to show that the EU was working concretely towards its international climate commitments.
The UN Environment Programme’s 2022 Emissions Gap Report calls for ‘urgent system-wide transformation’ to avert climate collapse, pointing out that a major contribution can come precisely from achieving the goal of fully decarbonising transport. Therefore, it is pressing for a massive shift to better and more functional public transport as well as the reduction of private cars by a substantial percentage by 2030.
From Sunday 6 to Friday 18 November, the COP27 – Sharm el-Sheikh Climate Change Conference will be held in Egypt. This is the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference and it will be an event loaded with many expectations, especially with regard to the work of the European Union, which over the years has been at the forefront of efforts to reduce emissions. COP 27 was originally supposed to be held in November 2021, but due to the continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic, the previous COP 26 was moved from November 2020 to November 2021. Therefore, COP 27 takes place this year from 6 to 18 November 2022.
The conference programme will see various governmental and non-governmental stakeholders come together to promote collaboration among all stakeholders to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help ensure a just transition to a net-zero economy and a sustainable future. The motoring causes have taken up the challenge in a resilient spirit, indeed, in a recent statement they themselves seem to be urging the EU because there is no time to lose in the race against the clock to achieve zero emissions.
ACEA, the European Automobile Manufacturers Association urged European policymakers to accelerate all processes necessary to implement the enabling conditions for zero-emission mobility. “This extremely far-reaching decision is unprecedented,” said Oliver Zipse, ACEA President and CEO of BMW. “It means that the European Union will now be the first and only region in the world to go fully electric.”
“Make no mistake, the European automotive industry is up to the challenge of delivering these zero-emission cars and vans,” Zipse said.
For its part, the Commission, in its agreement with the parties, envisaged that existing transition funding would be channelled throughout the automotive supply chain (SMEs), as well as the most critical regions and communities. Thus, the incentive mechanism for low-emission vehicles was revised to make them more affordable on the market.
Shooting the agreement down in the face, however, was Greenpeace, the popular environmental NGO, which considers the agreement to fall short of the EU’s climate commitments and calculates exorbitant costs for drivers in terms of hundreds of billions in fuel costs right in the middle of a global energy crisis.
According to Greenpeace, speeding up the timetable for the phase-out of hydrocarbon-fueled cars, taking the ban to 2028 instead of 2035, would result in significant savings for drivers, around €635 billion.
“The EU is taking the scenic route and that route ends in disaster. Phasing out fossil fuel cars in Europe by 2035 is not fast enough: new cars with internal combustion engines should be banned by 2028 at the latest.” A statement reads.
Meanwhile, the EU Parliament, which will have to ratify the agreement, has also adopted a legislative proposal that aims for more charging stations for alternative energy mobility vehicles. The proposal concerns refuelling stations for cars, trucks, trains and planes whose fuel is electricity or hydrogen.
The measure, which was adopted on 19 October with 485 MEPs voting in favour, 65 against and 80 abstentions, should encourage the development of conditions for minimum targets to be set in the member states for the construction, installation and dissemination of the necessary infrastructure for refuelling these types of vehicles.
For example, it was stipulated that from 2026 an electric recharging station must be available every sixty kilometres on the road for these vehicles, including ‘heavy goods vehicles’, while for hydrogen-powered vehicles the minimum target is to be increased from the 150 km desired by the Commission to the 100 set by the European Parliament’s vote. This will be the case for buses and trucks along the EU’s defined Ten-T roads and along all other main roads for other vehicle categories.
A particular aspect of this plan for the greater spread of alternative fuel stations will also be the ease of recharging. Stations will have to be accessible to all makes and models of cars, have implemented a facilitated payment system and show clear prices based on kWh and KG comparisons.
In addition, a penalty framework is envisaged to ensure that these minimum targets are met, and the revenues generated from fines will go to an Ocean Fund to support the decarbonisation of the maritime sector. The fund wanted by MEPs should serve to make ships more energy efficient and to support all necessary investments in innovative technologies and infrastructure, such as alternative fuels and so-called green ports. 20 % of the Fund’s revenues should be used to help protect, restore and efficiently manage marine ecosystems affected by global warming.
MEPs also voted for the use of zero- or low-carbon fuels in the maritime transport system. The aim is to reduce the impact of ships’ emissions by 2 per cent from 2025 and then to continue with a further reduction of up to 20 per cent from 2035 and 80 per cent in view of 2050, again more ambitious targets than those envisaged by the Commission, but in line with the 2015 Paris agreements.
As it turns out, the EU Parliament voted for standards that go beyond those set by the Commission, and MEPs are probably under pressure on the issue of emissions and influenced by the COP27 conference which, as we said, is just around the corner. Now it remains to see how national governments will behave in the face of increasingly demanding and stringent legislation.
For ECR the European left is taking an ideological approach on Fit for 55. For months now, the ECR Group has been calling for environmental and climate issues to be tackled with common sense and realism. The Italian MEPs of ECR have, on several occasions, spoken out in favour of the possibility of setting up a Social Climate Fund to support the impact that Fit for 55 is intended to have on the poorer segments of EU citizens. For ECR it is crucial to protect the environment, but at the same time it is necessary to ensure the sustainability of companies and families.