Plumb potential, ECOFIN explores & Sinkevicius scoots

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This week, it’s a Commissioner special!

Ursula von der Leyen spilled the beans and unveiled her Commission team. Romania’s Rovana Plumb gets the nod on transport, now she has to convince MEPs the dossier is in a safe pair of hands.

Her mission letter mentions “sustainable and smart mobility”, passenger rights, safety standards and military mobility among a whole slew of issues.

Significantly, von der Leyen tasks Plumb with extending the emissions trading scheme to the maritime sector and reducing free allowances for airlines. It makes good on a pledge made during her campaign for MEP votes in July.

Revising the energy taxation directive is also on the agenda. Dating back to 2003, the law was also discussed at the Helsinki ECOFIN council. Comm. VP Valdis Dombrokvskis said a review could be in the offing.

Last week, a Commission analysis of the aging legislation concluded it causes “significant misalignment” between itself, energy markets, emerging technologies and EU climate ambition.

Plumb’s appointment killed rumours that von der Leyen would split the portfolio between other jobs like digital and climate. But she may have missed the opportunity to rebrand the gig as ‘mobility commissioner’, according to one transport group chief. Full interview published soon.

Von der Leyen also confirmed the long-rumoured creation of a Commission department just for defence and space. Industry boss Elżbieta Bieńkowska told me that its ready on the launchpad but will need new recruits to get it into orbit.

India’s aviation regulator (DGCA) has followed European equivalent EASA in confirming it will do its own checks on Boeing’s grounded MAX aircraft before allowing the plane to take to its skies again. It marks a further split between international safety watchdogs.

Germany’s ruling coalition has agreed to double taxes on domestic flights and scrap levies for aircraft engines not powered by fossil fuels. A major climate package is due to be unveiled by Berlin at the end of the week.

WTO officials have reportedly concluded that the US is free to impose sanctions on the EU as part of the 15-year-long aircraft subsidy dispute. Trade chief Cecilia Malmström urged restraint: “we have enough tariffs in the world”.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance Founder Michael Liebreich opines that a drone attack on a Saudi oil refinery “perceptibly accelerated” the shift to electric transport. Exaggerating or a legitimate reading? Join the convo here.

It’s Mobility Week in Brussels and across the world in fact. Current transport chief Violeta Bulc marked the occasion by reconfirming the Commission’s pledge to halve road fatalities and serious injuries between 2020 and 2030.

The bloc’s new environment Commissioner was also getting in on the mobility fun: here he is testing out an e-scooter. Maybe look out for him zipping around the EU quarter once he starts his new job in November.

What else I’m reading

  • Netherlands mulls end to used cooking oil double-counting [Euractiv]
  • Oettinger rules out lobbying for German car industry [Politico]
  • Audi threatened with more Dieselgate fines [Autocar]
  • First ever all-electric airplane race [Air Race E]

Next stops

Transport committee MEPs vote on three outstanding Mobility Package 1 issues on 19 September at 9am. Webstream at this link.

EU ministers meet 20 September for the transport, energy and telecommunications council. Reducing sector emissions will dominate the agenda, details here.

Watch out for our special report on road transport policy, starting Wednesday.

Mobility week continues. Event details here. Car-free day is held on 22 September in Brussels. Public transport is free.

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