The Green deal and sustainable mobility
Plans for a more sustainable transport sector in Europe have been a long time in the making. Transport ministers from the EU member states discussed the “Graz Declaration” in 2018 in an effort to quickly implement clean mobility measures in Europe in order to improve the health and quality of life of European citizens. Worrying reports have indeed appeared which indicate that 98% of the EU’s urban population is exposed to harmful air, with road transport being identified as the major source of population.
With the Graz Declaration marking the beginning of a new “Green Deal” area, the Commission has allocated a multi-billion budget to clean, safe and affordable mobility for Europe. According to the Commission’s calculations, transport accounts for a quarter of the Union’s greenhouse gas emissions. The reduction of road transport emissions, which is responsible for 71.7% of total transport emissions, is therefore key in reaching the goal of a 90% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by the transport sector over the next 30 years.
One of the focus areas, according the official Green Deal plan, is that “a substantial part of the 75% of inland freight carried today by road should shift onto rail and inland waterways”. The Commission will also help develop smart systems for traffic management, along the lines of the technology of “smart cities” that FCI reported on previously. Other concrete initiatives relate to guaranteeing that the price of transport reflects the impact it has on the environment and on health, and the building of 1 million public recharging and refuelling stations that will be needed for the 13 million zero- and low-emission vehicles that are expected on European roads by 2025. It is also important to be aware that the Green Deal exists alongside other EU projects, such as EU LIFE – the funding programme for the environment and climate action created in 1992. As part of this project, for example, the weight of 30,000 vehicles has been reduced by replacing heavier materials with lighter, renewable components.
In terms of budget, the Green Deal is expected to mobilise at least €1 trillion of sustainable investments over the next decade, partly by unlocking private investments. Some commentators have been critical of the Green Deal, arguing that it is “mostly smoke and mirrors” and “largely composed of reshuffled money from existing EU funds”. Instead, they have proposed a “Blueprint for Europe’s Just Transition”. This represents more of a paradigm shift compared to the Green Deal, for example by assigning a greater role to the government by installing a public investment agency. The dominant model of public-private financing under the Green Deal, they argue, will allow investors to enjoy the gains of successful projects while shifting the risks on the shoulders of the European public. The Blueprint also advocates a Genuine Progress Indicator system of accounting rather than Gross Domestic Product. GDP measurements of “growth” will indeed include practices that damage the climate and environment – so long as they have economic value – and are therefore not suitable to measure progress. The transport-focused proposals also go a step further than the Green Deal. Given the significant contributions to carbon emissions by both commercial, intercontinental-tankers as well as military organisations’ vehicles of war, the Blueprint calls for renegotiating the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships and the International Convention for the Elimination of War Industry.
Edited by: Dr. Olivier Vonk