Tomorrow, the European Commission reveals its plan to cut transport emissions and boost electric vehicle use by 2030. For its ambition to pay off, the EU will have to bank on the business argument for e-mobility.
Transport contributes about a quarter of all greenhouse gases and the Commission’s plan is intended to drastically cut this figure by setting targets for the next decade.
One of the main (and obvious) ways to decarbonise transport is to increase the market share of electric vehicles. Member states and carmakers themselves are already working towards this by announcing a shift away from the combustion engine. Though how fast and comprehensive it will be remains to be seen.
We shall hear tomorrow how exactly the Commission intends to take this EU-wide and accelerate the process but it’s likely the executive will offer incentives and make it easier for companies to electrify their fleets and for charging infrastructure to be built.
It was rumoured that a quota for electric car sales was in the offing and Germany’s environment ministry even claimed at one point it was preparing for that eventuality.
But now it seems the Commission will choose its battles wisely, as the idea was backed in Germany primarily by the Socialists, who are now in opposition. MEPs and the member states will have their chance to amend the package and Berlin’s support will, as always, be essential.
So how is Commission HQ going to deliver on its promised ambition? After all, this is a machine with many moving parts, including the Paris Agreement targets, renewable energy uptake and air pollution reduction.
The Berlaymont’s energy and transport chiefs will tomorrow pull the curtain back on a package that is focused on business rather than climate action. It’s the only way to move into a higher gear and get smog-belching cars off the road.
In an ideal world, the Commission would set extremely high targets and leave it up to the Parliament and Council to chop-and-change its efforts. But this EU executive is, as we’ve been told ad nauseum, all about jobs ‘n’ growth.
Gutting the car industry, which employs millions in the EU, by not allowing it an ample transition period or room to manoeuvre simply does not tally with that. So the Commission will choose the middle of the road approach of not standing still, but not pushing aggressively either.
Business will ultimately drive this forward. It’s already happening with renewable energy and prices are falling as a result. It’s just a matter of time before consumers switch en masse to electric cars because it’ll make sound financial sense. Right now, it doesn’t.
There is also a slow-but-sure social change going on. Not so long ago, extolling the virtues of electric cars and wind turbines would’ve seen you labelled as a raving liberal or a hippy. But it’s mainstream now, so at least policymakers don’t have to contend with that aspect.
It is in other energy files, like the renewables and energy efficiency directives, where the EU has to hit its marks. Those laws are fundamental to Europe’s future energy and if they get those right, transport will take care of itself.
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Look out for…
The College of Commissioners assembles to look at the Clean Mobility Package before a press conference unveiling the proposal, scheduled for 11 am. You can watch it live here.
Views are the author’s.