European Commission calls for conversion to zero-emission vehicles by 2050 – FreightWaves

The European Commission is aiming to convert nearly all cars, buses and heavy-duty vehicles to zero emissions by 2050. That is one of the key takeaways from the EU Commission’s Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy for European transport released Wednesday. It includes new emission reduction strategies, freight shifting goals and digitization techniques.

“The challenge we face is to try and make sure that the needs of Europeans are met and at the same time the carbon footprint of transport is decreased,” said Frans Timmermans, executive vice president of the EU Commission’s European Green Deal.

Emissions targets

Extensive infrastructure is needed to support the EU Commission’s goals for zero-emission road vehicles to take over. The plan is to install 1,000 hydrogen stations and 1 million public recharging points by 2025. By 2030, 2 million more recharging stations would be added. This indicates that the EU Commission is planning on rapid adoption of electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles in the next decade. Another flagship initiative is creating zero-emission airports and ports and promoting sustainable aviation and maritime fuels.

The EU Commission said it will make a proposal to extend the EU Emission Trading System (EU ETS) to maritime transportation. It will also propose revisions to the existing ETS to reduce the free allowances currently allocated for airlines.

Making zero-emission large aircraft market-ready by 2035 is another milestone in the strategy. Airbus recently shared three hydrogen-powered zero-emission aircraft concepts that are projected to be flying commercially by 2035. 

“Additional investments for 2021-2030 in vehicles (including rolling stock, vessels, and aircraft) and renewable and low carbon fuels infrastructure deployment are estimated at EUR 130 billion per year, compared to the previous decade,” the report says.

Shifting freight modes

The EU Commission wants to see rail freight traffic double by 2050. Because rail and maritime are less emission-intensive modes of transport, another milestone of the strategy is: “By 2030, rail and waterborne-based intermodal transport will be able to compete on equal footing with road-only transport in the EU.” In line with the European Green Deal, this new strategy says that short sea shipping and transport via inland waterways should increase by 25% by 2030 and 50% by 2050. The goal is to reduce emissions for the last mile of delivery for goods. 

The Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) should be finished by 2030 to help these transitions, according to the report. The TEN-T is a network across the EU of connected inland waterways, airports, railway lines, roads and shipping routes that would work together to manage bottlenecks and the environmental impacts of transportation. The EU Commission estimated it would take 300 billion euros over the next 10 years to finish the core TEN-T.

Automation and digitization

The release said that the EU Commission fully supports the deployment of unmanned aircraft and drones to contribute to sustainability and safety goals. The EU Commission recognized the benefits of automation, including saving time, increasing environmental sustainability, providing real-time data and relieving traffic issues.

Through digitizing forms and processes, the EU Commission said freight will be able to “seamlessly switch between transport modes.” A milestone of the strategy is achieving paperless freight transport by 2030. The EU Commission said the combination of the digital and green transitions could reshape the sector, increase connectivity and stimulate the economy.

“The Commission will also continue to promote the use of European technical, social, environmental and competition standards in international fora, and in relations with individual non-EU countries across transport modes.”

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Alyssa Sporrer.

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