Transport is responsible for around a quarter of the EU's greenhouse gas emissions, making it the second-biggest emitting sector after energy. As such, it has a key contribution to make to decarbonising the European economy.
At the same time, decarbonising transport is a major challenge. It is the only major EU sector where emissions today are well above their 1990 levels. While greenhouse gas emissions from non-transport sectors fell 15% between 1990 and 2007, transport emissions increased by 33% over the same period. They have started falling only recently due to high oil prices and improved vehicle efficiency. More than two thirds of transport-related greenhouse gas emissions are from road transport, which contributes about 20% of the EU's total emissions of CO2.
Significant reductions in these emissions from transport are needed if the EU is to achieve its long-term climate goals. Recent policies that will help the EU stay on track with its climate commitments are outlined below.
The Commission set out two targets for transport emissions in its White Paper on Transport: a 20% reduction from 2008 levels by 2030, and a 60% reduction from 1990 levels by 2050. The proposed 2030 EU Climate and Energy policy framework reiterates these goals.
The White Paper puts forward a set of measures and initiatives tao further decarbonise transport in Europe. These will make the EU's transport system more efficient and more integrated, accelerate the deployment of new vehicle and fuel technologies (for example through CO2 standards, encourage a shift to cleaner modes of transport, (e.g. by making modes such as rail more competitive), improve traffic management (for example through use of intelligent transport systems), and remove barriers to a greater roll out of alternative powertrains such as electric vehicles (through the Clean Power for Transport initiative).
The EU has recently put in place further legislation to reduce CO2 emissions from new cars and vans: a 40% decrease in emissions from new cars in 2021 compared to 2005 and a 19% decrease for new vans in 2020 compared to 2012. These targets will translate directly into greater fuel efficiency of new vehicles and will save drivers money. The increasingly demanding standards will also encourage the roll-out of alternative powertrains, such as hybrid and electric vehicles.
The 2030 climate and energy proposals aim to continue and intensify the EU's strategy to set ambitious CO2 standards for vehicles. In addition to this, there is a target to reduce the greenhouse gas intensity of fuels by 6% by 2020, rolling resistance limits and tyre labelling requirements, and a requirement for tyre pressure monitors to be made mandatory on new vehicles. Public authorities are required to take account of life time energy use and CO2 emissions when procuring vehicles.
Alternative fuels are urgently needed to break the European transport sector's dependence on oil. Transport in Europe is 94 % dependent on oil, 84% of which ported, costing up to €1 billion per day, and increasing costs to the environment. Clean fuel is being held back by three main barriers: the high cost of vehicles, a low level of consumer acceptance, and the lack of recharging and refuelling stations. It is a classic chicken and egg problem: refuelling stations are not being built because there are not enough vehicles, vehicles are not sold at competitive prices because there is not enough demand, and consumers do not buy the vehicles because they are expensive and the stations are not there. The European Commission is therefore proposing a package of binding targets on Member States for a minimum level of infrastructure for clean fuels such as electricity, hydrogen and natural gas, as well as common EU-wide standards for the equipment needed. The Clean Power for Transport Package consists of a Communication on a European alternative fuels strategy, a Directive focusing on infrastructure and standards and an accompanying document describing an action plan for the development of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) in shipping.
Emissions from the global shipping industry amount to around 1 billion tonnes a year, accounting for 3% of the world's total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and 4% of the EU's total emissions. Without action, these emissions are expected to more than double by 2050. This is not compatible with the internationally agreed goal of keeping global warming below 2°C, which requires worldwide emissions to be at least halved from 1990 levels by 2050. In June 2013, the European Commission set out a strategy for progressively integrating maritime emissions into the EU's policy for reducing its domestic greenhouse gas emissions. The European Union wants a global approach taken to reducing emissions from international shipping. As a first step towards cutting emissions, the European Commission has proposed that owners of large ships using EU ports should report their verified emissions from 2018.
Since the beginning of 2012, emissions from aviation are included in the EU Emissions Trading System. Aviation within and between Member States (intra-EU aviation) is and remains covered by EU ETS. Initially it was decided to also cover international aviation. The co-legislators have however decided to (temporarily) suspend inclusion of flights to and from non-EU destinations.
The EU did this to allow time for the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to reach a global agreement to tackle aviation emissions – something Europe has been seeking for more than 15 years.
In October 2013, the EU's hard work paid off when ICAO agreed to develop a global market-based mechanism (MBM) addressing international aviation emissions by 2016 and apply it by 2020.
The overarching objective of this project is to contribute to international, regional and national efforts to address growing CO2 emissions from international aviation. More specifically, it aims to support less developed countries in increasing their ability to track, manage and reduce their aviation emissions. Through the support provided, partner countries will be able to develop and submit meaningful national action plans on CO2 emissions reduction activities, as requested by the 2010 ICAO Assembly, establish CO2 emissions inventories, and pilot the implementation of measures to reduce fuel consumption towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions.