The Transport Brief, powered by Ubitricity & Lightyear – ETS for road transport: support grows for controversial proposal

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Among the Fit for 55 legislative proposals, a package not short on contentious measures, one suggestion stood out as particularly divisive.

That suggestion is the creation of a carbon market for buildings and road transport, a move the Commission argues is necessary to rein in rising emissions.

Even green NGOs, quick to bash the European Commission for failing to go far enough, accused the EU executive of overstepping the line.

MEPs from the left and right balked at the notion, while industry reactions ranged from nonplussed to apoplectic.

The EU’s Emission Trading System (ETS) puts a price on emissions by requiring polluters to buy CO2 permits. These permits can then be bought and sold on the market, the price of which is steadily rising.

The proposed carbon market for transport and buildings would not be tied to the current ETS but would rather have a separate (lower) price.

But critics contend that forcing motorists to pay for CO2 emissions will hit the poorest households the hardest while allowing the wealthy to pollute with virtual impunity.

Greenpeace warned in July 2021 that extending the ETS would pose social risks with no guarantee of meaningful emission cuts, arguing it would not give “the necessary protection for poorer households facing a fuel price increase”.

Environmental NGOs such as Friends of the Earth Europe, WWF, and Transport & Environment similarly spent years lobbying against extending the ETS to road transport and buildings, dubbing it a “high-risk, low-reward strategy”.

But there are signs that minds are changing.

Those who once saw the ETS extension as something to be consigned to the dustbin are now looking at how it could be fairly applied.

MEP Emma Wiesner of the centrist Renew Group has noticed a shift over the past months.

“I think rather than being stubborn about this new ETS, I believe that people are now going into the creative and constructive space, opening up the political toolbox and really looking at how can we improve this,” she told EURACTIV’s Kira Taylor.

Peter Liese, a German MEP with the centre-right EPP Group, is one of the ETS extension’s strongest defenders.

“The new ETS is, in my view, an indispensable part of the Fit for 55 [package]. We cannot decarbonise transport and buildings without a carbon price,” he told a recent briefing.

One of the chief arguments in defence of the ETS extension, and one put forward by Liese, is that the revenues captured can be used to soften the impact on the financially vulnerable. Other measures aimed at cutting vehicle emissions may not generate a pool of funds in the same way. (However, not everyone is convinced by this argument.)

Liese said there has been a marked change over the last six months in how the ETS extension is perceived, with the idea gaining support from NGOs and industry.

Indeed, once a strong critic, Transport & Environment’s thinking has evolved on the topic. In a recent briefing paper, the green NGO said that if applied in a socially fair way, the ETS “can play an important role to both tackle demand, but most importantly, to generate new revenues to help the most vulnerable to transition away from fossil fuels”.

Today, the ETS extension remains controversial. But less so than six months ago. Where it will be in another six months remains to be seen.


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EU citizens willing to pay more for cleaner cars, survey finds

EU lawmakers are currently debating legislation that would see stricter emissions limits applied to cars and vans sold in the EU.

The so-called “Euro 7” standards would require carmakers to cut emissions by 55% compared to 2021, an increase on the existing target of a 37.5% reduction.

Automakers warn that if passed these requirements could increase the price of cars for consumers, hitting sales and leading to car owners extending the life of older, more polluting models.

But a new survey conducted by YouGov (commissioned by clean mobility NGO Transport & Environment) found that almost two-thirds of respondents would be willing to pay up to €500 more to ensure their new car meets low emission standards.

Seventy-six percent also said that manufacturers should be legally obliged to reduce emissions from new cars as much as technically feasible.

Around 8,000 people were interviewed for the survey across Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, Romania, and Czechia.

“The car industry claims cutting a vehicle’s emissions is too expensive when in reality it will cost less than a paint job. But the public wants the cleanest cars possible and now they’ve called carmakers’ bluff by saying they’re prepared to pay,” said Fabian Sperka, vehicles policy manager at T&E.

The full report can be read here.


US airlines warn of 5G chaos

An aviation crisis is brewing on the other side of the Atlantic, as major US airlines warn that the rollout of 5G will render significant numbers of aircraft unusable, Reuters reports.

Aviation authorities say that 5G, which is set to be deployed by US telecommunications companies tomorrow (19 January), could interfere with sensitive airplane instruments.

The chief executives of American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and others outlined their concerns in a letter sent to high ranking officials including White House National Economic Council director Brian Deese and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

The letter warns that an average of 1,100 flights and 100,000 passengers could face cancellations or delays each day as a result of the interference.

The airlines are demanding that the areas surrounding airport runways be designated 5G-free zones.

“Immediate intervention is needed to avoid significant operational disruption to air passengers, shippers, supply chain and delivery of needed medical supplies,” they said.

Read the full story here.


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Commission denies existence of ghost flights amid carrier concerns

Europe’s use it or lose it airport slot rule has not created issues for airlines during the COVID-19 pandemic, nor is there any evidence of carriers operating ghost flights because of the rule, a senior European Commission official said on Thursday.

Auto parts makers accused of obstructing EU climate policies

European auto parts makers are undermining efforts to decarbonise the transport sector by lobbying against climate-friendly EU policies, a new analysis by the climate thinktank InfluenceMap has claimed.

Chip crisis pushes European car sales to new low

EU car sales fell to a new low last year as the auto sector was hobbled by the Covid pandemic and a shortage of computer chips, industry figures showed Tuesday (18 January).

EU shipping plan leaves millions of tonnes of CO2 unregulated: study

European Commission proposals to bring shipping into the bloc’s carbon market contain exclusions for small commercial and military vessels that would leave millions of tonnes of CO2 emissions unregulated, an NGO study showed on Thursday (13 January).

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