Europe urged to cut all transport emissions to keep climate pledge

Paris, Madrid and Brussels accuse the Commission of giving in to car manufacturers and being too lenient on NOx emissions. [Martin Cathrae/ Flickr]

Germany’s Öko-Institut warned the EU must cut global warming transport emissions by 94% by 2050 to stop the planet’s temperature rising above the two degree limit agreed by world leaders at the Paris climate summit in December 2015.

Experts warn that even a two degree rise will have a catastrophic impact and cost lives. The Paris Agreement, which entered into force in November this year, sets the cap at two degrees above pre-industrial levels, with an aspirational goal of 1.5%.

A massive 96.34% of the EU’s transport sector is based on polluting fossil fuels, according to figures released last week by the European Environment Agency.

Transport is responsible for almost a quarter of EU greenhouse gas emissions. Road transport accounted for more than 70% of all transport greenhouse gas emissions in 2014, according to the European Commission.

The Öko-Institut carried out the research, obtained exclusively by, for Transport & Environment, an NGO. It focused on the emissions targets under discussion at EU level for sectors such as transport.

EU's decarbonisation plans scrutinised by divided transport industry

EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc has to make good on a few promises she made before the summer break.

The EU has two main pieces of climate legislation aimed at keeping the promise made in Paris. The Emissions Trading System (ETS), which is currently under revision, and the Effort-Sharing Regulation (ESR).

The ETS governs the sectors covered in the world’s largest carbon market. The ESR covers the sectors which aren’t, including buildings, heating, agriculture and transport.

Put forward by the Commission in July, the ESR sets a 30% emissions reduction target by 2030. The bill is now subject to amendment in the European Parliament and in the Council of Ministers. Both institutions will ultimately have to agree on an identical text before it can become law.

According to the research, the 30% target translates to a 1% reduction per year. To hit the 94%, greenhouse gas emissions goal, the percentage must be closer to 2% or 3%.

But there is debate among member states about the ESR, with some countries pushing for a lower target than 30%. The ESR divides responsibility among member states to reach an EU-wide target.

Carlos Calvo Ambel, of Transport & Environment, said, “The proposals by some governments would effectively halve the ambition level.

“They claim they’re just unhappy about the way the efforts are distributed but if that’s really the problem, they should propose changes that don’t completely destroy the 2030 goals.”

Transport is responsible for around a quarter of EU greenhouse gas emissions, making it the second biggest greenhouse gas emitting sector after energy.

Road transport alone contributes about one-fifth of the EU's total emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas.

While emissions from other sectors are generally falling, those from transport have continued to increase until 2008 when transport emissions started to decrease on the back of oil prices, increased efficiency of passenger cars and slower growth in mobility.

Trucks, buses and coaches produce about a quarter of CO2 emissions from road transport in the EU, and some 5% of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions – a greater share than international aviation or shipping, according to the European Commission.

Despite some improvements in fuel efficiency, CO2 emissions from Heavy Duty Vehicles (HDVs) rose by some 36% between 1990 and 2010, mainly due to increasing road freight traffic.

In May 2014, the European Commission set out a strategy to curb CO2 emissions from HDVs over the coming years. It is the EU’s first initiative to tackle such emissions from trucks, buses and coaches.

The Commission said it intends to propose legislation in 2015 which would require CO2 emissions from new HDVs to be certified, reported and monitored.

What is the EU doing about truck CO2 emissions?

Pressure is mounting on manufacturers to lower carbon dioxide emissions from trucks, buses and coaches. The European Commission is planning to introduce the first EU-wide standards to measure CO2 from heavy duty vehicles this summer, as a first step to regulate emissions.


Life Terra

Funded by the LIFE Programme of the EU

The content of this publication represents the views of the author only and is his/her sole responsibility. The Agency does not accept any responsibility for use that may be made of the information it contains.

Subscribe to our newsletters