New EU initiative to reduce carbon emissions from road transport

The European Commission has adopted a new strategy aimed at curbing the environmental impact of heavy vehicles in the European Union.

While CO2 emissions from new cars and vans are already being targeted under current EU legislation, the most recent initiative is the first to address emissions from heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs).

“Heavy-duty vehicles are responsible for around a quarter of CO2 emissions from road transport in the EU. Without action, HDV emissions in 2030-2050 are projected to remain close to current, unsustainable levels,” said Climate Action Commissioner, Connie Hedegaard.

“We are [now] taking the next steps to curb emissions from road transport. We first regulated cars and vans, and we can now see the results: emissions have been reduced, air pollution in cities is in decline, and more innovative, fuel-efficient vehicles are now available to consumers. That is why we turn now to trucks and buses. This strategy outlines new measures which over time will cut CO2 emissions of these vehicles, save operators money and make the EU less dependent on imported oil.”

The strategy focuses on short-term action to certify, report and monitor HDV emissions. This is an essential first step towards curbing emissions, where comparability among HDVs has so far been difficult largely due to the considerable variety of models and sizes of trucks available, which are highly customised to market needs and produced in much smaller quantities than cars and vans.

The Commission has developed a computer simulation tool, VECTO, to measure CO2 emissions from new vehicles. With the support of this tool the Commission intends to bring forward proposals for legislation next year, which would require CO2 emissions from new HDVs to be certified, reported and monitored. This will contribute to a more transparent and competitive market and the adoption of the most energy-efficient technologies.

Once legislation is in place, the Commission says it may consider further measures to address emissions. “The most apparent option is to set mandatory limits on average CO2 emissions from newly-registered HDVs, as is already done for cars and vans. Other options could include the development of modern infrastructure supporting alternative fuels for HDVs, smarter pricing on infrastructure usage, effective and coherent use of vehicle taxation by Member States and other market-based mechanisms. An impact assessment will be done to identify the most cost-effective option or options.”

Studies carried out while preparing the strategy suggest that state-of-the art technologies can achieve cost-effective reductions in CO2 emissions from new HDVs of at least 30 per cent.

HDV emissions currently represent about a quarter of road transport emissions and five per cent of total EU greenhouse gas emissions.

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