Cutting transport emissions in the shadow of COVID

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Welcome back to the Transport Brief and my best wishes for the year ahead! May it be an improvement on its predecessors, even it is admittedly hard to get hopes too high after a disappointing 2021.

Indeed, much of the giddy expectations placed on last year – the year that promised a return to “normality” – seem absent from 2022. There’s a gnawing feeling that perhaps this is what normal now looks like, that the rise and crash of infectious waves and yo-yoing restrictions are not an aberration but a permanent feature of European life.

Perhaps that’s too pessimistic. The idea of the pandemic stretching into the future is a demoralising thought, particularly for the vulnerable and the healthcare workers tasked with treating them. And let’s not forget (for this is the Transport Brief) for the transport industry, too.

Christmas 2021 was not the boon to the travel industry many predicted it would be a year ago. The Omicron variant saw a slew of holiday flight cancellations, as passengers and crew alike fell victim to the highly infectious virus.

Several EU countries rushed to add new entry requirements just before the holidays, such as proof of a negative PCR test in addition to proof of vaccination, calling into question the common validity of the EU’s Digital COVID Certificate for inter-EU travel.

And the recent weeks saw airlines fly empty or near-empty flights just to stay within the 50% take-off threshold set by the EU to get to keep valuable airport slots (despite the exercise being a clear blow to the environment and common sense).

All in all, the travel industry is already likely praying, or whatever the corporate equivalent is, that this year will finally, finally be the year that cross-border travel resumes without its many COVID-related caveats.

Apart from dealing with the ongoing pandemic, the European transport sector will also devote much of its time to following (and influencing) the EU policy discussions around cutting mobility emissions.

The mammoth Fit for 55 climate laws package, unveiled in July of last year, will continue to command attention throughout 2022.

Debates over the composition and availability of sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs), a key decarbonising measure for aviation, are likely to intensify, as are questions over the use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a green transition fuel for maritime journeys.

The role of the internal combustion engine (ICE) in a greener transport future will be hotly contested in the coming months, as some push for low-carbon e-fuels and higher levels of biofuels as a path to extend the life of ICE vehicles, while others back the EU’s proposal to have only zero-emission vehicles sold after 2035.

The controversial proposal to extend the EU’s carbon market, the Emission Trading System, to road transport will additionally occupy lawmakers, as will discussions on rolling out infrastructure for electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles, and new rules surrounding the sourcing, manufacture, and disposal of batteries within the bloc.

By the end of 2022, the path that the EU intends to take to achieve low-carbon mobility promises to be much clearer.

For a full overview of what’s in store for the transport sector in 2022, read the article below.

Car manufacturers to advertise walking and cycling in France

It’s not uncommon for countries to impose warnings when advertising certain products: Alcohol should be consumed responsibly, gambling can be financially risky, cheeseburgers and Coca-Cola should not substitute a balanced diet.

However, these products generally fall under the category of vice or junk food – not a mode of transport.

From March 2022, French car advertisements will be mandated to include messaging informing consumers of the effect not on their wallet or body, but on the environment.

The French government has declared that car manufacturers must encourage would-be drivers to choose less-polluting alternatives, France24 reports.

Three options will be available for advertisers to choose from: “Consider carpooling,” “For day-to-day use, take public transportation,” or “For short trips, opt for walking or cycling”.

The rules, which will apply across online, print, and broadcast advertising, also require the car’s CO2 emissions to be displayed.

It’s a strong message from the French government that in a time of climate crisis, the car (at least polluting models) may no longer be fit to be king.

France’s capital city seems to have already decided as much. Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo has reallocated space away from cars in an effort to turn the famously traffic-ensnared city into a cyclists’ paradise.

Denmark aims to green domestic flights by 2030

All domestic flights in Denmark will be fossil fuel-free by 2030 according to Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, who made the announcement in her new year’s address.

In her speech, Frederiksen acknowledged that achieving the goal would be difficult but said the country was committed to leading on the issue, the BBC reports. Details of how the northern European country intends to replace kerosene are yet to be revealed.

The transition to zero-emission flying faces several barriers.

Zero-carbon aircraft technology, such as electric or hydrogen-powered planes, are unlikely to be commercially mature until the middle of the next decade.

And alternatives to kerosene, including electro fuels and waste-derived biofuels, are not currently available in sufficient quantities to entirely replace fossil jet fuel.

These sustainable aviation fuels are also much more expensive than kerosene. Whether they can be sufficiently and affordably scaled up to meet aviation needs by 2030 remains to be seen.

However, Denmark is not the only Nordic country to announce such plans. Sweden has also pledged to scrap fossil fuels for domestic flights by 2030.

A roundup of the most captivating transport news.

2022: Choosing a shade of green for the EU’s transport sector

The ‘Fit for 55’ climate laws package and COVID transport disruptions are set to dominate EU transport policy debates once again in 2022, as the EU seeks to deepen progress on the green files while grappling with the mobility impact of the resurgent virus.

EU under pressure on ‘ghost flights’

The European Union is under increasing pressure to further ease rules on airport take-off and landing slots to cut the number of “ghost flights” airlines are running to retain them.

Pandemic, semiconductor shortage sees 2021 car production idle

Car manufacturing in the UK stalled last year due to pandemic woes, including a global semiconductor shortage, despite demand for greener electric vehicles soaring, industry data showed on Thursday (6 January).

The Commission must push for green transition in shipping

We cannot stop shipping. So EU institutions and industry must work together to find solutions that will drastically reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases, write Tiemo Wölken, a German MEP in the S&D group, and Pernille Weiss, a Danish MEP in the European People’s Party.

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