Carmakers and oil companies unveil sustainable transport goals for 2030

Major business players in the road transport sector have set out
their long-term objectives for sustainable mobility as global
demand for cars continues to soar.

Focusing on road transport in particular, the report says that
the world’s present mobility trends are unsustainable if consumer
demand is to be met with fast growth led mainly by China. 

The report describes the situation as a mobility dilemma:
meeting demand without putting the environment and human health at
risk. To address these challenges, the signatories have set
themselves seven goals:

  • Reducing emissions from road transport to
    levels that do not constitute a significant public health concern:
    The report focuses on cutting down emissions in developing
    countries through technological improvements. Large vehicles with
    high emission levels are likely to be targeted first.
  • Reduce Greenhouse gas emissions from
    transport to sustainable levels: The ultimate objective is to
    eliminate transport as the largest source of GHG emissions but the
    report warns that this goal cannot be achieved until “much later
    than 2030”.
  • Reduce road deaths and injuries: Driver
    education, improved infrastructure and better technologies for
    crash avoidance are highlighted in the report.
  • Reduce transport-related noise:
    Technological developments are to be introduced to decrease the
    noise levels of cars and trucks.
  • Ease traffic congestion: Proposed actions
    include increasing road capacity and making an increased use of
    information technologies to improve the usage of existing mobility
    systems and infrastructure.
  • Narrow the ” mobility divide” between
    poor and rich countries: Lack of mobility inhibits economic growth
    in the poorest regions of the world and should therefore be
    tackled, the report says.
  • Enhance mobility in developing countries:
    Based on wider access and affordability.

Car manufacturers' representatives addressing
the conference agreed that CO2 emissions needed to be cut. Asked by
EURACTIV about his anticipated timeframe for adopting new
environmentally-friendly engines, Mr Shoichiro Toyoda
Toyota) indicated that the trend is to take
actions before problems arise, whereas in the past, the approach
was more reactive. He said that fuel cell engines have not reached
maturity yet: The adoption of a given technology in the future, he
said, "will depend on the engineers' work". In the meantime, hybrid
technologies can combine classical engines with either electric of
fuel cell. 

"In order to be successful, the technologies need to be
appealing and affordable," a GM official commented, adding that his
company believes that "the hydrogen motor vehicle offers tremendous
opportunities". Concerning public authorities' involvement in
promoting sustainable transport, a Volkswagen official said he
believed that "a joint action between companies and governments is
definitely needed", for instance on developing fuel pr ojects and
intelligent transport systems based on information technologies.
"Not all solutions will come from companies," he pointed out.

Speaking to EURACTIV, Norsk
Hydro
's Per Sandberg said that there
were two reasons for his company's participation in the report:
"One is that we are a large provider of aluminium and light metal
solutions - and the automotive sector is a prime sector for the
future. And our other main reason is our interest in hydrogen as a
future fuel". Pressed about the timeframe he envisaged for adopting
hydrogen fuels on a large market scale, he said: "The trick is that
it has to be coordinated. You both have to have the vehicles at an
affordable price and then you have to build the infrastructure and
produce the hydrogen. [...] Our timeframe is 20-50 years".

Asked whether an increase in oil prices could facilitate the
change to hydrogen technology, he points to hindrances due to car
manufacturers' continued divisions over the choice of technology.
"The challenge to make mobility sustainable is so large that you
actually need a combination of technologies," he points out. He
illustrates this point by taking the example of biofuels: "There
are regions of the world where biofuels are much more attractive
than other regions." Asked whether he thinks public authorities
need to step in in favour of a given fuel technology, he says that
"policy-makers should be technology neutral: set out a framework
and let the best technology win".

BP's senior adviser Sir Charles
Nicholson
gave EURACTIV some views on the report. Asked
about the multi-modal approach to transport advocated in the
Commission's white paper on transport, he said that "road vehicles
had proven themselves to be the most in demand and the most
economically efficient because of their huge flexibility. [...] A
rail unit is a good point to point delivery system where perhaps
time is less of the essence. But we seem to be moving to a point
where speed of delivery and just-in-time issues are all the more
critical". He takes the Channel tunnel as an example where modern
freight was blocked by lack of political will. He believes
information technologies are a good way of making better use and
coordination between non-road transport infrastructures such as
railways.

Turning to the question of greenhouse gas emissions from cars
and trucks, Sir Charles Nicholson anticipates that, under current
technological advances, those will double by 2030. "I think we
could accelerate the decline in that curve" using biofuels and
hydrogen engines. Asked about the research needed and the timeframe
for such technologies to be used on a mass market scale, he said:
"A lot". "Our belief is that this will be quite challenging". He
points to governments as having "a key role to play in determining
how quickly they would like to introduce these alternatives" and
therefore back and accelerate the research, notably through a "tax
subsidy system". "I think you're still in a 20-50 [years]
timeframe. [...] It would take an almost unimaginable effort to
reach back by the middle of this century to the [emissions] levels
we have at the moment," he added. The first set of measures, he
believes, should be assessed in a timeframe of three to five years
from now.

On public transportation's role in improving sustainability,
Nicholson says that traditional public transport services have
become less attractive and therefore too costly to be able to
compare with the private car. "That disadvantages people who do not
have access to personal mobility whether because they're old or
infirm or because they can't afford it. That is a social issue that
needs to be considered by public policy". He takes the example of
privatised bus services in the UK as an illustration of a daring
policy that delivered satisfactory results, contrary to rail
liberalisation.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)
and 12 partners from the oil, energy and car industry have released
a joint report setting out their long-term vision for transport and
energy, " Mobility 2030: Meeting the Challenges to Sustainability". 

The 12 signatories to the report, presented on 5 July, are BP,
DaimlerChrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Michelin, Nissan,
Norsk Hydro, Renault, Shell, Toyota and Volkswagen.

At EU level, the Commission has devised a strategy to encourage
diversity in transport systems and infrastructure. This so-called
multi-modal approach is aimed mainly at putting trucks off the
roads and stimulating the transport of merchandise on trains and
boats (see our LinksDossier on sustainable mobility)

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