Fit for 55: EU sets clock ticking on fossil and diesel engines

Subscribe to EURACTIV's Transport Brief, where you’ll find the latest roundup of news covering mobility from across Europe.

Greetings and welcome to the EURACTIV transport newsletter!

Below you’ll find the latest roundup of mobility news from across Europe.

Want to suggest a story? Or just say a digital hello? Drop me a line at:

Receive the Transport Brief in your inbox by subscribing here.

Following months of fevered speculation (and equally fevered lobbying), the Fit for 55 climate laws package was unveiled last Wednesday (14 July). In today’s Transport Brief we’ll take a look at what the Fit for 55 plan means for three key sectors: road transport, aviation, and maritime.

Perhaps the biggest news for the road transport industry was the de facto ban on internal combustion engines (ICE), thanks to EU plans to instigate a zero-tailpipe emissions limit for cars sold after 2035.

At present, EU-produced cars are allowed to emit 95g of carbon per kilometre driven. This will be scaled back by 55% by 2030, moving to 0g in 2035.

Vans, which are permitted 147 g/km, will face a 50% reduction by 2030, but must also be emissions free by 2035.

Manufacturers that produce between 1,000 and 10,000 passenger cars or between 1,000 and 22,000 light commercial vehicles will also see their derogation from emissions targets come to an end in 2030 (presumably meaning all-electric Ferraris in the near future).

Many carmakers, such as industry giants Volkswagen, are already pivoting towards the production of electric vehicles.

But German MEP Peter Liese criticised the choice of 2035 for the vehicle emissions ban, arguing that it does not provide sufficient time for small businesses whose livelihoods depend on internal combustion engine production to adapt.

For more information, read the article below.

Aviation: Does Fit for 55 spell the end of cheap flights?

For decades, jet fuel, unlike fuels used in shipping and road transport, was exempt from taxation. The European Commission wants to end this anomaly, much to the delight of environmental activists, who have been pushing to end the exemption for years.

However, to give the aviation sector time to recover from the economic downturn wrought by the pandemic, the tax will be postponed for a decade (a move which somewhat curtailed environmentalists’ joy).

Airliners refuelling at EU airports will also be obliged to refuel using a blend of kerosene and green jet fuel. The amount of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) required will scale up over time, moving from 2% in 2025 to 5% in 2030, reaching 63% in 2050.

SAFs, which are made from advanced biofuels and electro-fuels, currently make up less than 1% of jet fuel used in the EU, thanks largely to their exorbitant price and scarcity.

Policy-makers are hoping the mandate will supercharge the SAF market, increasing supply and dropping the price.

The Commission additionally proposed to phase out free carbon market permits by 2026 for airlines whose flights within Europe are covered by the scheme.

The decision will force carriers to pay more for emissions.

Some industry commentators say the combined measures will push up ticket prices for consumers, hitting cheap flights.

Click the link below for more details.

Maritime: Shipping to join the EU’s carbon market

Shipping, a global industry responsible for around 3% of the world’s CO2 emissions, is set to be added to the EU’s carbon market.

Shipping would join the Emissions Trading System (ETS) from 2023, forcing ship owners to buy ETS permits based on their level of pollution.

Failure to do so could result in a ban from EU ports.

The EU also wants to limit the greenhouse gas intensity of the energy used on board ships, setting targets of a 6% reduction by 2030, moving to 75% by 2050 compared with 2020 levels.

As the measures are aimed at all ships landing at EU airports, they are likely to be controversial internationally.

“It cannot be equitable for non-EU shipping companies to be forced to pay billions of euros to support EU economic recovery plans, particularly under a scheme that undermines CO2 negotiations,” said Guy Platten, secretary general of the International Chamber of Shipping association, referencing carbon-cutting discussions taking place via the UN’s International Maritime Organization.

Read more below.

Cycling: Green benefits of travelling on two-wheels overlooked in climate laws package

Cycling groups have criticised the Fit for 55 package for discounting the CO2-cutting potential of cycling in favour of trying to decarbonise cars.

The European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF), Cycling Industries Europe (CIE), and the Confederation of the European Bicycle Industry (CONEBI), released a joint statement reminding decision-makers that “the technology for rapidly reducing road-transport emissions already exists”.

“The Commission’s ‘Fit for 55’ package was a major opportunity to propose a more radical transformational shift away from polluting road transport. But it has missed this opportunity by focusing too much on electrifying vehicles at the expense of more quickly boosting and realising the potential of cycling,” according to the cycling groups.

ECF wants cycling to be a “major recipient” of the Fit for 55’s Social Climate Fund, a move which they say will “support EU citizens most affected or at risk of energy or mobility poverty”.

Read the full statement here.

A roundup of the most captivating transport news.

EU signals end of internal combustion engine by 2035

Sales of new cars and vans that produce carbon emissions will be banned as of 2035, proposals tabled by the European Commission revealed on Wednesday (14 July), a move which all but guarantees that the era of the internal combustion engine (ICE) is drawing to a close in the EU.

EU targets airlines in climate policy shakeup

Airlines may lose a tax break on jet fuel that has drawn fire from environmentalists, while having to use more non-petroleum alternatives and pay a bigger emissions bill, under major proposals to make Europe the “first climate-neutral continent”.

EU proposes adding shipping to its carbon trading market

The European Commission proposed on Wednesday (14 July) adding shipping to the bloc’s carbon market for the first time, adding pressure to become greener on an industry that had avoided the European Union’s system of pollution charges for over a decade.

EU green jet fuel proposal shuns crop-based biofuels, focuses on next generation

Proposed EU legislation aimed at cutting flight emissions by ramping up the use of sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) has excluded the use of first-generation biofuels, arguing they bring “limited environmental benefits”.

Overly complex EU climate package will curb investment in green fuels, warns industry

The advanced biofuels industry has criticised the complexity of the EU’s climate legislation package, arguing that the slew of new rules will hinder investor confidence.

[Edited by Benjamin Fox]

Subscribe to our newsletters