Clean transport: We need to do more and better

Electric cars are an essential part of cleaning up our air, writes Karima Delli.

Karima Delli | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual

By Karima Delli

Karima Delli (FR, Greens/EFA) is chair of Parliament’s Transport and Tourism committee

21 Jun 2017

Reducing emissions from vehicles is, more than ever, an imperative for the EU. While the rest of the bloc's industry has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions for the period 1990-2015, this is not the case for transport. 

According to the latest report by the European Environment Agency, emissions globally decreased between 2013 and 2014, but went back up between 2014 and 2015, mostly because of a boost in road transport. 

Concretely, emissions went up by 1.6 per cent in both 2015 and 2014. In total, road transport still accounts for over 20 per cent of emissions in Europe. The EU has not been resting on its laurels. However, the efforts made so far to improve the energy efficiency of passenger and freight vehicles are nowhere near enough to compensate for rising demand, and the resulting emissions.


If we want to respect the objectives we committed to at COP21, we have no choice: we need to do more and better. Our children's health, and that of future generations, depends on it.

The fallout from the Volkswagen scandal showed just how far behind the times member states were in ushering the car industry into the 21st century. The European emissions testing system was decades old, so manufacturers started cheating on their tests, which was then covered up by member states who were simply concerned with the market share of their national industrial champions.

Protecting our health and respecting consumer rights and the law were no longer priorities. Is this still the case now that Parliament's EMIS committee has concluded its investigation?

Meanwhile the Commission has launched several infringement procedures and vehicle type approval rules are being revised I have my doubts. However, by all accounts, following the recall of vehicles for which Volkswagen faked test results, the energy efficiency of these cars has not improved much. More than ever, we need a European agency in charge of controlling the efficiency of tests carried out within the single market.

We must also set ambitious targets. The Commission could introduce a climate and transport package, and one of the aims could be to reduce the vehicle fleet by 25 per cent by 2025, thanks to the sharing economy and improving public transport, which would provide more alternatives to private cars. 

The Commission would also do well to suggest a production target of 20 per cent electric cars by 2025, so that we could transition from diesel engines to low-emission cars.

We must act urgently, or continue to suffer the consequences of polluting cars in our cities. Paris and London are leading by example, by limiting the number of cars allowed in the city centre, as is Stuttgart, where Euro6 type cars will soon be banned from the city centre. 

While we must reduce the number of cars in our cities - let's not forget congestion costs the equivalent of one per cent of EU GDP each year, and has done so for over 10 years. Electric cars are also part of the solution. 

It's true that the price of electric cars mean they are inaccessible to a large portion of the EU population, but studies have shown that their price will be the same as a classic car by 2021, as production increases. 

Three million electric cars are expected to be sold around the world in 2018, mainly in the US, Europe and China, where fighting air pollution is a political priority. 

For this to work, all stakeholders must be mobilised: cities and the Commission are already doing their part, member states must now take their responsibilities and encourage the creation of zero-emission zones, adequate infrastructure and responsible buying, through new fiscal schemes - still too often, these benefit those buying diesel cars. 

Having clean cars is not a fantasy. It is a need, in order to protect our planet and our health. But it is also a question of autonomy. 

The EU imports $350bn worth of petrol each year, a third of which is used for cars. 15 million European car industry workers are prisoners of the 20th century production model. And European consumers are paying a hefty price for their cars' lack of energy efficiency.


Read the most recent articles written by Karima Delli - EU Mobility Week: A change of paradigm