This article is part of our special report Taming heavy road transport emissions.
The head of the European Parliament’s environment committee has urged her MEP colleagues not to rush the adoption of new EU rules on heavy-duty vehicle emissions, casting doubt on whether the Third Mobility Package can be finalised under this current Parliament.
Adina-Ioana Vălean is a Romanian MEP with the European People’s Party (EPP) and head of the Parliament’s environment committee (ENVI).
She spoke to EURACTIV’s Sam Morgan on the sidelines of the European Transport Forum (ETF), held in Brussels on 25 September.
This is the EU’s first go at regulating heavy-duty vehicle CO2 emissions. It’s been called “overdue” by some, including European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič. What do you think of the timing?
My main worry at this stage is the fact that there is an ongoing push from the Parliament to get tonnes of legislation off the books before the next elections in May and the end of the mandate. So I worry that with the hundreds of amendments to the trucks legislation, it won’t get the proper debate it deserves. From this perspective, I would’ve preferred to have seen it earlier or to leave it for the next Parliament. Otherwise, we might end up with something that is not so solid. Especially since this is something new.
You’re the head of the Parliament’s environment committee, which is the lead on this file, but there are clearly a lot of issue relating to jobs, infrastructure, energy, manufacturing and so on. Was your committee the right one to tackle this?
Well it’s about emissions so we have exclusivity on any legislation that deals with climate change and emissions. So it couldn’t have found a home anywhere else. Of course, I think we will have opinions from other committees but even getting those opinions is going to be challenging in terms of the timing. They will have to read it, amend it, debate it, all before we rush into a vote. Everything right now is under time pressure, which is not, in my opinion, a good thing for legislation.
Greens MEP Bas Eickhout is the lead rapporteur on the dossier and his draft report has already increased the targets originally proposed by the Commission. During this event you spoke about opening a ‘Pandora’s Box of ambition’: what did you mean by that?
Between myself and Bas Eickhout there is this debate, stemming from my own personal market-orientated ideology and his green ideology. From this perspective, that is why I’m saying don’t rush into new steps and talk only about ambition. Talk also about consolidation, let’s see new technologies on the market and what the pick-up is like. We’ve already seen with electric cars that not everyone can afford something like a Tesla, even if we all would like one. The market isn’t fully prepared for total electrification of cars. Not to mention, where is the electricity produced? Is it from coal? If it is, it’s not a clean vehicle. Where are the batteries produced? That’s why we need to let the market develop, grow, adapt, adopt new technologies. Binding targets can come when we have consistency. It’s an ideological thing though. For the Greens, targets and ambition are what will move things forward.
Do these rules risk exposing a ‘two-speed Europe’, given the differences between EU countries? Vehicles on the road in eastern member states are typically much older, for example.
Transport is about free movement at European level. From this perspective, it makes sense to have a unified regulation or else it would be difficult to deal with this. Then you have to take into consideration all the existing differences in Europe. That’s why my idea is not to fight against the legislation but to be cautious and give it a bit of time. That gives new technologies and public debate to come out with solid solutions. Also, it makes no sense to ask people or operators to invest in something more expensive. It’s going to put smaller businesses out of business.
Your committee adopted a report on light vehicle emissions earlier this month. Do you think that was rushed? Has that legislation just been copy and pasted into the truck rules?
No it’s not a case of that. There was also some tension when we adopted that, as we had so many amendments, and I’m not sure about the amount of time we even had to debate it. In the environment committee, parties are rather split on the subject. That’s why having more time would be beneficial for compromises. Personally, I appreciate it when legislation is adopted with broad support. That is solid legislation, not ones that pass by just a few votes.