Mark’s EU Week for Transport 

Mark Watts explains why despite soaring fuel bills we can’t stop believing in  Zero Carbon Transport!

The elephant in the room according to many of my former colleagues on the Transport Committee of the European Parliament is the impact of soaring fuel prices on the plans to decarbonise transport. Some are even calling for a delay to plans to green transport until fuel prices fall.

Transport Commissioner Adina-Ioana Vălean robustly defended the plans and responded ‘It’s absolutely, totally clear that we have to make sure that our energy system in Europe is compatible with our aims to decarbonise transport.’

She’s absolutely right. We can’t stop believing in our Zero Carbon Transport plans, just agreed at COP, and due to be implemented through the EU’s ‘Fit for 55 Package’ and the UK’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan. Indeed, it’s time to step up to the plate and press on with them, with even more urgency.

Reducing demand for fossil fuels by decarbonising transport, promoting public transport and active travel modes, whilst diversifying our sources of energy – with greater emphasis on alternative fuels and renewables, will generate a virtuous circle of better transport, cleaner air, less carbon, lower demand for energy, improved economic performance and enhanced geo-political stability.

In contrast, delaying our Zero Carbon Transport ambitions will just add to the insatiable demand for fossil fuels, particularly when the demand for travel is forecast to grow exponentially as we recover from the global pandemic.  We would then face a downward spiral of higher levels of fossil fuel dependency, higher costs and a toxic environmental, economic and political legacy to pass on to our children and grandchildren.

But unfortunately, the lack of strategic joined up thinking in much of Europe’s and the world’s policy making structures makes delivering our climate, fossil fuel and mobility ambitions harder.

Indeed, the best way of decarbonising transport and weaning ourselves off fossil fuels is to better co-ordinate our transport, energy and environment policies.

That’s going to be a key theme of our UKTIE delegation visit to Brussels on March 21st. The UK remains COP President until November this year, and it is vital we use that position to champion our COP26 achievements, and promote that virtuous cycle of transport decarbonisation and energy diversification through global co-operation and co-ordination.

Do let me know if you would like to join our delegation.

Finally, the song of the week has to be ‘Don’t stop believin’ by Journey!

1. EU Parliament adopts Eurovignette directive
The European Parliament has adopted new rules on road charging. The new system will improve incentives for more efficient and sustainable road transport. It will phase out time-based vignettes for heavy-duty vehicles on the core Trans-European Network by 2030, in favour of distance-based. It will also introduce EU-wide rules to vary charges for heavy-duty vehicles based on their CO2 emissions. Moreover, after a 4-year transition period, external cost charging for air pollution will become mandatory for heavy-duty vehicles, except where it would create unintended traffic diversion. The new rules are set to greatly benefit the operators of hydrogen and battery-electric heavy goods vehicles, who will receive significant toll discounts, and to mostly bring an end to time-based charges in favour of distance-based tolling.

2. Green fuels shortage looming due to EU restrictions
According to a new industry position paper , Europe is in danger of failing to meet the transport industry’s soaring demand for sustainable liquid fuels due to EU restrictions on biofuels. Demand for green liquid fuels in Europe is set to double by 2030, an industry-commissioned study found, as the EU seeks to decarbonise maritime, aviation, and heavy-duty road transport by replacing fossil fuels. Meeting the targets set out in the revised renewable energy directive, FuelEU Maritime, and the ReFuelEU Aviation mandates will require around 42 million tonnes of oil equivalent, according to the study. In the short term, Europe is likely to remain reliant on fossil fuels to meet its transport needs. Internal European Commission documents show that Brussels expects the transport sector to be overwhelmingly dependent on fossil fuels up to 2030.

3. Next TRAN Committee meeting
The next TRAN Committee meeting will be on 3 March. The agenda shows that MEPs on the Committee will discuss the following:

  • Use of vehicles hired without drivers for the carriage of goods by road
  • Ensuring a level playing field for sustainable air transport
  • Restructuring the Union framework for the taxation of energy products and electricity

4. UKTiE has also put together the latest timetable of key transport and supply chain developments in Europe. We will keep this up to date as the process develops:

  • 3 March 2022: Next TRAN Committee meeting.
  • 3 March 2022: Joint ITRE Committee meeting.
  • 21-22 March 2022: UKTiE members visit to Brussels.
  • 2 June 2022: Next Transport Council.
Mark Watts
UK Transport in Europe (UKTiE)
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