Study by Transport & Environment: “Transport can and must be decarbonised by 2050 at the very lates”

Transport & Environment : Published November 2018
In house analysis by Transport & Environment
Coordination: Carlos Calvo Ambel
Main modeller: Thomas Earl
© 2018 European Federation for Transport and Environment AISBL 

Further Information 

Carlos Calvo Ambel
Manager, Analysis and Climate
Transport & Environment
Tel: +32(0)2 851 201
Square de Meeûs, 18, 2nd floor | B-1050 | Brussels | Belgium | @transenv 

This synthesis report based on extensive research has shown how transport can be decarbonised in Europe by 2050. Our studies have shown that bringing transport close to decarbonisation is possible, but it should be done smartly. Tackling demand is key to reduce the amount of energy and other resources required to deliver zero emission mobility. Very large investments will be needed in the renewables sector, but also in electricity transmission grids. Given the lower efficiencies in producing hydrogen or synthetic diesel or petrol, they should only be used when truly no other alternative exists. Otherwise, the decarbonisation challenge would be unattainable. 

Decarbonising the entire European economy will require a holistic approach. Most transport modes can be decarbonised following different pathways. However, they have very different implications for the overall energy system. Unless ways are found to exponentially increase the amount of zero emission electricity at low cost it will remain important to minimise the need for additional clean electricity. This means that an approach focused on using the most efficient pathways (direct charging) wherever possible is recommended. Given the much lower efficiencies of hydrogen but in particular electrofuels, these are optimally used only where no other alternatives exists. 

Decarbonising transport is possible, but each single assumption that went into our modelling would require new policies to realise them. In most instances this will take the form of new laws and regulations, very often at European level. The more we delay those measures, the harder it gets to achieve a decarbonised transport sector by 2050. 

Our studies have also shown that action needs to start immediately. Each single assumption that went into our modelling would require very strong political will to make them happen. Every single year those measures are delayed, the more unlikely it will be to have a decarbonised transport sector by 2050. Transport decarbonisation will be highly dependent on the decarbonisation of the power sector, and unless electricity demand considerably decreases compared to nowadays, additional power production in the continent will be needed. 

Regarding cars, back casting from where the EU needs to be in 2050 exposes the inadequacy of proposed EU 2030 car CO2 regulations. If sales of zero emission cars are to reach 100% by 2035 at the latest, significantly more than 35% of new cars should be zero emission vehicles by 2030, the current level being negotiated by the regulation. Without delay, a review in 2023 at the latest is needed to align the 2030 CO2 standards for cars with the Paris-compliant trajectory, i.e. at least 50-60% in 2030. An indicative target of zero emission for all new cars sold after 2035 at the latest is necessary to indicate a clear direction to the industry and provide enough lead time. Governments must reform national vehicle taxation policies to speed up transition and create the required TCO parity by means of purchase taxes to raise the costs of ICE’s and lower those of ZEVs. The Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive (AFID) shall be updated to set mandatory charging infrastructure targets for member states and ensure full coverage and interoperability  network by 2030. Finally, via an enabling framework, support a timely development of EV supply chain in Europe, including competitive manufacturing of safe and sustainable batteries (the EU Battery Labelling and Battery Directive review). 

However, even with 100% ZEV sales after 2035, the remaining fleet of fossil cars will continue to emit close to 60Mt of CO2 in 2050, even more if demand is not reduced, so additional measures are needed to speed up fleet renewal. Limits to EU vehicle circulation length (via type approval), national support to retire old cars and zero emission zones in cities will all help drivers retire their old polluting cars faster and enable the EU to achieve full decarbonisation of the entire car segment in 2050. 

For vans, ambitious 2025 and 2030 van CO2 standards would be an step in the right direction, complemented by an effective zero emission crediting and debiting system. The Eurovignette directive should extend the current road charging rules to also cover large vans to create level playing field for cross- border freight transport. 

For land freight, the first step is to have ambitious CO2 standards for trucks and trailers, combined with a ZEV benchmark for trucks. National governments should introduce, expand and redesign tolls so as to accelerate the market take-up of zero or low carbon trucks. National governments should consider gradually increasing diesel tax, ideally in bigger groupings of countries (to avoid fuel tax tourism). Revenues could be used to fund the transition of the sector. 

Cities need to adopt zero-emission freight strategies as to increase bottom up pressure on truckmakers to invest in zero emission trucks. As with other modes, the right infrastructure needs to be built, as all alternatives (battery electric, e-highway or hydrogen trucks) require it to operate. The EU should use its post-2020 transport budget lines to co-finance such projects, and avoid spending on technologies which do not have the potential to decarbonise. 

For buses, cities, procurement authority and public transport operators need to start procuring electric buses en masse to replace their aging and polluting fleets, while communicating to manufacturers so they can ramp up scale of production, reducing prices. Focusing on a TCO-focused approach by shifting from upfront payments to lease or loan payments is also important, while including external costs in the tendering process when comparing different options. The EU should incentivise and deploy financial instruments to fund the transition, in particular easily accessible directly to cities. Setting a zero-emission bus mandate as part of the HDV standards for both 2025 and 2030 would also be a step in the right direction. Gas vehicles should be excluded from the scope of the Clean Vehicle Directive. Finally, a temporary  additional weight allowance for zero-emission buses should be introduced to limit the passenger restrictions due to the additional weight from the batteries. 

Decarbonising aviation fuels will require significant investment, and significant investment requires certainty. That is why policy-makers need to turn their attention now to the safeguards and policies needed to bring such fuels to market, so that the availability of these fuels can be ramped up in line with the sector´s need to decarbonise. More specifically, we propose: 

Cut fuel demand through additional measures such as stricter aircraft CO2 standards and incentives for fleet renewal; 

Further reduce the climate impact of aviation through a progressively more stringent low carbon fuel standard on aviation fuel suppliers, conditional on the necessary safeguards being in place, to bring aviation close to zero emissions by 2050; and 

Ensure the Commission brings forward proposals to address aviation´s non CO2 effects by the start  of January 2020, as required by the revised EU ETS Directive. 

For shipping, we recommend to prioritise battery-electric and hydrogen (pure and/or in the form of ammonia) technologies from sustainable renewable sources to decarbonise shipping. Although battery- electric propulsion appears to be the most efficient use of primary energy, a tech mix – battery, hydrogen, ammonia – is a more likely pathway for the different segments of EU shipping – domestic, intra-EU and extra- EU. Varying combinations of battery-electric and carbon-free fuels are likely to be pursued depending on the available renewable energy and operational needs of individual shipowners. Some key measures in the short-medium term are: 

Amend the AFID o stop mandating LNG bunkering infrastructure for maritime and inland ports, while mandating hydrogen bunkering infrastructure for seagoing and inland ships, and stop public (EU or national) funding of LNG bunkering infrastructure. 

Remove the opt-out clause in the AFID for making available shore-side electricity infrastructure for seagoing and inland ships in European ports, and exempt shore-side electricity from excise taxes or tax fossil marine fuels at the same or higher levels. Consider temporary exemption of shore-side power supply from network charges, too. 

Explore an EU-wide harmonised methodology for determining port discounts for zero emission ships, while allowing ports to decide on the offered discount levels. 

Mandate zero emission short-sea shipping (SSS) in the EU following Norway examplexxxvi, starting with passenger ships and gradually extending to other ship types. For deep-sea shipping a 12 and then 200 nautical miles CO2 emission control area (CO2 ECA) should be explored in order to incentivise the gradual uptake of zero emission technologies. 


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