The Nordic Road to Decarbonisation of Road Freight Transport

Merja Kyllönen, Member of the European Parliament, Confederal Group of the European United Left – Nordic Green Left

Place: Permanent Representation of Sweden, square Meeus

Date: Wednesday, March 1, 2017 9:00-12:00

Ladies and gentlemen,

thank you for inviting me to this very topical event. I am happy to join the discussions today and address this challenge of decarbonisation from Nordic perspective. I am also glad to meet many old and new Nordic colleagues here and strengthen our networks to promote the Nordic way of thinking here in Brussels. I am especially happy to see some of our Norwegian colleagues here. I had a chance to meet the representatives of the transport committee of the Norwegian Parliament a few weeks ago here in Brussels and we had a very nice and forward-looking discussion on the same topics and found that we share a very similar way of thinking.

As we all know, the Nordic countries are facing some of the highest targets for CO2 reductions. The Nordic countries have several common characteristics, which differ from other parts of Europe. In particular, the countries are sparsely populated in huge parts of the area with well developed infrastructure; they have significant natural resources and strong high-technology industry. In other words the Nordic countries have the need as well as the resources to develop a sustainable, decarbonized transport industry taking into account the specific conditions of life in the Nordic.

For me, as the northernmost MEP in transport committee this all is quite obvious, but sometimes I don´t get too much support or understanding from my colleagues. This year this seems to be my personal crusade.  I have been reminding the politicians in the Finnish national parliament to hold onto a hint of self-interest to find the best available solutions for our Nordic conditions. There are seldom “one size fits all” -solutions in EU – instead it´s up to the Member States to find the best solutions to combine the interests of the Union and good aspiration towards the single market with the local preconditions, knowhow and national heritage.

But let me start with the effort sharing regulation…

Transport produces one quarter of carbon dioxide emissions in the EU. The need to reduce emissions from transport has been debated since the 1990s, while the objectives have varied with economic trends. Even though that debate has continued, greenhouse gas emissions from transport in Europe have merely increased, and by 2014 were 20% higher than in 1990.

The overall growth in emissions from transport is mainly due to the increase in emissions from road transport and aviation, as rail and inland waterway transport emissions have decreased since 1990. The share of private cars in transport emissions is around 44%, and the combined contribution of heavy goods transport and buses is around 18%.

So what is to be done in EU? Last summer the Commission published a package of proposals, including a communication of the low-emission mobility and the proposal for effort sharing regulation setting emission reduction targets for each Member States to 2030. The European Parliament is currently handling both of these dossiers in numerous committees. I am responsible for drafting a transport committee opinion on effort sharing regulation and am also a shadow rapporteur for low-emission mobility report. Generally speaking, with these proposals the Commission is setting the explicit targets for Member States but letting them independently decide how they will meet those targets.

The effort-sharing regulation covers the CO2-emissions from agriculture, transport, building and waste management sectors. On the basis of the proposal for an effort-sharing regulation, the greatest pressure to reduce emissions from transport will be on those Member States whose emission reduction targets are high as a whole.  To be honest, I have been quite upset hearing the discussion from my home country Finland saying that transport sector has to carry the biggest burden among these sectors because other sectors cannot. CAN NOT? I am quite confident that where there is a will there is also means. Transport is one of the most important everyday services for European citizens, and effective, precise and cost-effective logistics are absolutely essential for European integration and the functioning of the internal market. Given that the emission reduction targets for the transport and logistics sector are becoming quite ambitious as a result of this regulation on effort-sharing, I am quite concerned that the costs to the transport industry and to European industry in general of reducing emissions have yet to be determined. It should be clearly understood that when allocating the highest emission reduction shares to transport sector it will affect the costs of the logistics and competitiveness of businesses.

According to the proposal for an effort sharing regulation, in addition to an emission reduction target for 2030, Member States will be required to meet annual reduction targets during the period 2021-2030. In my report for transport committee I stressed the need for long-term perspective to reduce emissions consistently, including the period ending in 2050 and creation of solid interconnection between EU emission reduction targets and the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

In its proposal, the Commission has included some elements of flexibility, aiming to ensure that emission reduction measures are undertaken in the most cost-effective way. However, the elements of flexibility in the Commission proposal and the basis for their calculation contains some uncertainties, which could jeopardise implementation of the EU’s climate policy and the overall final result. The proposed flexible mechanisms may allow a situation in which the EU will miss its emission reduction targets under the Paris Convention on Climate Change, even if Member States attain the targets assigned to them under the effort-sharing decision. On the other hand, the acceptability of the Commission proposal in certain Member States depends on precisely these elements of flexibility.
As I mentioned before, the methods of reducing emissions are to be left to the individual Member State to decide. In July 2016, the Commission put forward its views on measures to reduce emissions from transport in the communication ‘Towards low-emission mobility’.  The Commission communication will be followed by numerous legislative proposals to establish the framework, like a regulation of emissions from heavy goods transport. However, responsibility for the success of the EU’s climate policy as a whole rests very much with national and local policies and decisions.

I fully support the decision to leave it to national policymakers to decide on the methods to be used to reduce transport emissions but still I would like to see EU giving some more support and tools for Member States to catalyze the shift towards greener transport. The urban transport is an excellent bad example: urban transport produces 23% of Europe’s carbon dioxide emissions from transport and this area is fully excluded from EU competencies. I would also encourage both EU and countries to pay careful attention to their financial system and funding instruments and allocate funding from the various programmes and instruments to promote a shift to a low-emission transport system. Money talks.

For a long time, Europe’s common transport and emission reduction policy has been based on the progress in vehicle technology and fuel technology. Sorry to say but the uncertainties which have recently come to light in the car industry have raised questions about the industry’s commitment to genuine emission reductions. The shift to low-emission or emission-free mobility is being hampered by the heavy dependence on fossil fuels, while the low price of oil has recently put a brake on the transition from them. From my perspective the most effective way to attain emission reduction targets is a broad package of measures consisting of rational land-use planning, public transport, policies to promote walking and cycling, full exploitation of the developing vehicle, engine and fuel technologies, the introduction of knowledge services and digital services, and the use of price instruments to guide mobility choices. Regarding the road freight transport the biofuels probably are the most prominent way to meet the emission reduction targets. But we should not forget the power of the traffic management and optimisation. Also the promotion of bigger fleet will reduce the emission calculated per transported unit.

Digitisation and new digital features have enabled new types of mobility services to be created, which, if they come to be more widely used, can reduce the need to own and use a car of one’s own, and thus create a significant emission reduction potential. It is therefore desirable that these services should gain ground both in urban and inter-urban transport. These services offer users ease of movement and also make the total costs of mobility most predictable and transparent. It seems that the automation of traffic is also proceeding faster than expected. I personally consider both developments to be positive, but highlight that the legislators of both the EU and the Member States will have to monitor carefully how the development of the field affects transport emissions. It must be ensured that the changes lead to mobility behaviour that is less damaging to the climate and the environment.

Later this year we will face with an excitement the Commission´s new proposals of long-awaited road package which will keep us – also in the Parliament – busy for forthcoming months. In this point where Commission is still preparing its proposals I can guess that you are actually way much better informed about the content and aspirations of the package than I am – in this phase parliament is always “the last one to know”. But I really have high hopes that we will receive a coherent and sound package which provides us tools to modernize this sector and harmonize rules among the member states.

Dear audience,

The very essence of the need of decarbonisation is not to meet the goals set by EU legislation or commitments written down to international agreements BUT to maintain this globe livable for next generation. It is OUR task and responsibility. It is worth remembering that the revolution doesn’t always have to wait for EU regulators to be pioneers. There is still (at least today) one human in every single car. Therefore, I wouldn’t underestimate for example the economical driving and the training related to that. Also, in the logistics I trust the emergence of digitalisation to provide tools to optimise the logistics chains even further and thus reduce also the environmental footprint. We are also expecting CO2 standards for lorries and trucks based on the public consultation carried out last fall. But as I mentioned, we are currently “hands on” in this topic in the Parliament and therefore I would prefer hearing your comments and ideas to repeating my own. If it would be ok for our moderator I would be happy to hear your thoughts – now or later. And you´re always welcome to contact me or my office. Thank you!

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