Clean mobility package: Disappointing CO2 targets

Written by Bas Eickhout on 26 January 2018 in Opinion

The Commission’s clean mobility package is hindered by short-term industrial policy views, says Bas Eickhout.

Bas Eickhout | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual

The Commission presented its clean mobility package - the second package on mobility - on 8 November last year. The most important legislative file was the long-awaited proposal for 2021-2030 CO2 targets for light duty vehicles. This was seen as the very essence of this package, but ultimately proved its most disappointing proposal.

The process of the proposal played out like a soap opera. The Commission ordered, at the specific request of the European Parliament, an impact assessment to outline the economic and societal benefits of several different proposals. Surprisingly enough, the Commission didn’t take the results of the proposal into account.

Although the research indicates that the higher the annual reduction, the greater the societal benefits EU-wide, the Commission decided to adopt the lowest annual reduction target.


Karoline Graswander-Hainz: Is Europe really on track for low-emission mobility?​

Massimiliano Salini: EU clean mobility package is a good start​

Géraldine Kutas​: Decarbonising transport: This is the time to get it right​

Henna Virkkunen​: Electrification is a necessary step in decarbonising EU transport sector​

Matthijs van Miltenburg​: Transport and climate: We need to act now​

Indeed not only that, last-minute calls from industry to top Commission officials also watered down the zero-emission vehicle mandate proposal to a useless tool that only adds further loopholes to the CO2 reduction target.

Cost-effective vehicle standards are probably the most effective measure for improving energy efficiency in the EU in the period up to 2030. Coming forward with a lacklustre proposal such as this not only makes the EU look ridiculous on the international stage but also reveals several potential dangers on the middle- to long-term.

First, several other regions in the world are overtaking the EU with more ambitious climate legislation, leaving Europe behind. With this proposal, the EU is putting itself in an increasingly weaker position, losing much of its influence in international negotiations.

Second, while this proposal was cautiously welcomed by the automotive industry, it could be counterproductive in the long run. Green innovation is essential to keep this once strong European industry alive. By postponing this much-needed change, European industry risks losing the frontrunner position it once held; we will end up importing clean vehicles from other regions that take the necessary steps in innovation.

Third, it will make it increasingly difficult for member states to reach their climate targets. Transport is the sector that - logically - can contribute more to the national CO2 reduction targets than other areas such as agriculture.

If the European Commission already sets the bar so low for a proposal that could be highly ambitious for a low cost, then member states will certainly face serious challenges reaching the targets.

There is a reason several countries have already expressed disappointment at the Commission’s initiative.

The EU has subscribed to the Paris agreement. There is a need for consistent, ambitious legislation that will allow us to practice what we preach(ed). In the long run, demonstrating EU leadership will be beneficial to both the climate and our industry.


About the author

Bas Eickhout (Greens/EFA, NL) is Parliament’s rapporteur on a European strategy for low-emission mobility


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