The gift of efficient and green mobility

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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: sean.carroll@euractiv.com.

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This December sees the European Commission in a giving mood.

Later today the EU executive will unveil the “efficient and green mobility package”, a series of initiatives aimed at further cutting transport’s carbon footprint, while on Wednesday legislation will be presented on energy and climate action (don’t forget to subscribe to EURACTIV’s Green Brief for more on that).

Unfortunately, the specifics of the mobility package are under embargo until the official press conference this evening (not ideal timing for this newsletter, you’ll agree). However, it’s widely known that the package will cover four areas:

  • Updates to the regulation on the trans-European transport network (Europe’s main transport corridors, known as TEN-T for short), with an eye to boosting rail freight
  • A revision of the Directive on Intelligent Transport Systems (particularly important as technological improvements see cars and infrastructure become smarter)
  • The release of a new urban mobility framework (which will outline methods to cut transport emissions in cities)
  • An action plan to boost long-distance and cross-border passenger rail

Ahead of the release of the package, various actors in the transport sphere have set out what they would like to see included.

Greens MEPs sitting on the Parliament’s Transport Committee sent a letter last week (seen by EURACTIV) to EU climate chief Frans Timmermans and EU Transport Commissioner Adina Vălean outlining their wishes.

The MEPs want to see the TEN-T revision make it easier to take different green transport modes in the same journey (known as “multimodality”). This can be achieved, they say, by extending rail connections to seaports and making it easier to bring bicycles on night trains, for example.

Funding for road and aviation networks should be “minimal” compared to other modes, while cycle routes should be ensured along TEN-T corridors (a request strongly echoed by the European Cyclists’ Federation).

In the Urban Mobility Framework, the MEPs want to see space taken away from cars.

“The focus [of the framework] cannot be on promoting individual motorised transport, but incentivising public transport and active mobility, including for freight and logistics,” the letter states.

So, will the Greens MEPs get their wish? Or will they get the legislative equivalent of coal in their stocking? Follow EURACTIV for full coverage.


The role of gas in transport splits member states

Last week saw transport ministers gather to discuss updates on the “Fit for 55” mobility files, including ReFuelEU Aviation, FuelEU Maritime, and the Alternative Fuels and Infrastructure Regulation (AFIR).

The gathering was the last held under the Slovenian EU Council presidency, who will hand the reigns over to France in the new year. It is expected that the files will be finalised and adopted under the French presidency’s six-month term.

The French presidency will have its work cut out to reach a common position, as clear divisions remain on a number of issues.

On AFIR, a regulation that aims to build up Europe’s charging network for the shift to electricity and hydrogen-powered vehicles, the question of gas has proven divisive.

Some member states, such as Poland, Lithuania, and Slovakia, want to see liquefied natural gas and biogas fuelling stations included in AFIR, which they consider an important transition solution.

However, not all member states share this view. Portugal warned that specific requirements for LNG will lead to the lock-in of fossil fuels, a position backed by Luxembourg, Denmark, and Germany.

The proposed distance-based requirements for charging stations were also questioned by some member states: Finland cautioned against a “one size fits all” approach, pointing out that in Finland some TEN-T roads only pass three municipalities. The island nation of Cyprus also wants to see greater flexibility, given its specific circumstances.

In comments to the press following the meeting, EU Transport Commissioner Adina Vălean conceded that some flexibility may be required for very low-density parts of the TEN-T network.

But she remained optimistic. “I believe we can find a compromise,” she said.


NGOs angered by potential battery rule delays

The proposed EU battery regulation aims to make batteries used in Europe the greenest in the world. The regulation’s strict traceability and recyclability criteria are designed to ensure that Europe’s shift to e-mobility doesn’t result in a slew of negative environmental consequences.

However, there is mounting concern among NGOs and businesses that the legislation could come into effect too late.

Transport & Environment (T&E), Amnesty International, and 39 other NGOs expressed alarm at a recent Council Presidency text that seeks to delay the introduction of battery rules.

Under the text, measures aimed at reducing batteries’ carbon footprint would be pushed back by four years compared to the Commission’s proposal, and a two-year delay would be added to the phase-in of mandatory supply chain checks for environmental and human rights abuses.

The NGOs wrote to all EU environment ministers, asking them to implement the green battery rules as soon as possible.

“These rules could ensure that Europe’s nascent battery industry commits to addressing human rights and environmental harm from the get-go. But Europe’s battery industry is being set up now, and not in three or four year’s time,” said Cecilia Mattea of T&E.

“If environment ministers support these delays they’re effectively saying they don’t want clean and ethical batteries, and they’ll be missing a golden opportunity to support a new sustainable and strategic European industry,” she added.


Fewer cars lead to higher Christmas sales: report

Oftentimes, moves to pedestrianise urban streets are blocked by shopkeepers worried about a fall in business.

But a new study by the Clean Cities Campaign has found that fewer cars on the road could actually lead to higher sales.

In Madrid, for example, spending increased by 8.6% in the low emission zone compared to 3.3% in the city overall during the 2018 Christmas period.

“Policies that disincentivise car use can be a real lifesaver for the local economy. City leaders must step up their efforts to roll out low emission and low traffic zones,” said Barbara Stoll, director of the Clean Cities Campaign.

“Covid impacted shop owners deserve a Christmas gift,” she added.

Read the full report here.


A roundup of the most captivating transport news.

Will Germany’s new ‘advocate of the motorists’ surprise with clean mobility shift?

Germany’s new transport minister Volker Wissing has raised question marks over the country’s lagging transition to clean mobility. But his track record is promising, reported Clean Energy Wire.

EU incapable of detecting fraud in biofuel imports, complainant says

The EU’s approach to monitoring fraud in the importation of used cooking oil (UCO) – a feedstock used to produce green biodiesel – is unfit for purpose, the complainant behind the EU ombudsman’s recent maladministration ruling has told EURACTIV.

Updated data brands bioethanol as ‘cost-effective’ tool to decarbonise EU transport

Following years of investments, a new report has found that crop-based bioethanol should now be considered a “cost-effective” measure to reduce road transport CO2 emissions by 2030.

EU launches bid to regulate gig economy

The European Commission proposed legislation on improving the working conditions for platform workers on Thursday (9 December), estimating that 28 million people are currently working via digital platforms covering services ranging from food delivery companies such as Deliveroo and Just Eat to mobility services such as Bolt and Uber.

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