To turn an urgent challenge into a unique opportunity

The executive branch of the European Union (EU), the European Commission, outlined a European Green Deal for the EU and its citizens in December. This communication effectively resets the Commission’s commitment to tackling climate change and environmental-related challenges that is said to be this generation’s defining task.

The European Green Deal is a response to the atmosphere warming and the climate changing with each passing year whereby one million of the eight million species on the planet are at risk of being lost. It is a new growth strategy that aims to transform the EU into a fair and prosperous society, with a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy where there are no net emissions of greenhouse gases in 2050 and where economic growth is decoupled from resource use.

It also aims to protect, conserve and enhance the EU’s natural capital, and protect the health and well-being of citizens from environment-related risks and impacts. At the same time, this transition, the Commission emphasised, must be just and inclusive.

“It must put people first, and pay attention to the regions, industries and workers who will face the greatest challenges,” the Commission said in a statement. “Since it will bring substantial change, active public participation and confidence in the transition is paramount if policies are to work and be accepted. A new pact is needed to bring together citizens in all their diversity, with national, regional, local authorities, civil society and industry working closely with the EU’s institutions and consultative bodies.”

The EU is reported to have the collective ability to transform its economy and society to put it on a more sustainable path. It can build on its strengths as a global leader on climate and environmental measures, consumer protection, and workers’ rights. Delivering additional reductions in emissions is a challenge. It will require massive public investment and increased efforts to direct private capital towards climate and environmental action, while avoiding lock-in into unsustainable practices. The EU must be at the forefront of coordinating international efforts towards building a coherent financial system that supports sustainable solutions. This upfront investment is also an opportunity to put Europe firmly on a new path of sustainable and inclusive growth. The European Green Deal will accelerate and underpin the transition needed in all sectors.

The environmental ambition of the Green Deal will not be achieved by Europe acting alone. The drivers of climate change and biodiversity loss are global and are not limited by national borders. The EU can use its influence, expertise and financial resources to mobilise its neighbours and partners to join it on a sustainable path. The EU will continue to lead international efforts and wants to build alliances with the like-minded. It also recognises the need to maintain its security of supply and competitiveness even when others are unwilling to act.

This Communication presents an initial roadmap of the key policies and measures needed to achieve the European Green Deal. It will be updated as needs evolve and the policy responses are formulated. All EU actions and policies will have to contribute to the European Green Deal objectives. The challenges are complex and interlinked. The policy response must be bold and comprehensive and seek to maximise benefits for health, quality of life, resilience and competitiveness. It will require intense coordination to exploit the available synergies across all policy areas.

The Green Deal is an integral part of the Commission’s strategy to implement the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda and the sustainable development goals, and the other priorities announced in President von der Leyen’s political guidelines. As part of the Green Deal, the Commission will refocus the European Semester process of macroeconomic coordination to integrate the United Nations’ sustainable development goals, to put sustainability and the well-being of citizens at the centre of economic policy, and the sustainable development goals at the heart of the EU’s policymaking and action.

International Road Transport Union (IRU) Delegate, Matthias Maedge, said the IRU has welcomed the initiative and commitment by President Ursula von der Leyen to make the Green Deal the new growth strategy for Europe.

Maedge added that road transport has a key role to play and provided an overview of the Green Deal’s provisions.

The Climate Law, planned for release in March 2020, is reported to set a legislative framework to guide the 2050 carbon neutrality objective. For road transport operators, this, according to IRU, represents new opportunities to help the world on its path towards sustainable and inclusive growth, so long as the policies entail smarter road transport rather than a reduction thereof. currently, 75 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions stem from private passenger cars – a figure that speaks for itself when it comes to areas of action under any new climate legislation.

The revision of the Energy Taxation Directive, Maedge said, has the potential to lead to a harmonisation of fuel pricing across the European Union and reduce tank tourism, while also accelerating the uptake of lower CO2 fuels through the introduction of a CO2 tax.

To meet road transport sector growth, alternative fuels are becoming a necessity. This sector is expected to grow 300 per cent by 2050 in Eurasia – a demand that can only be met by a wider range of alternative fuel options, including gaseous and liquid based fuels. Moving to a zero emission circular economy, with a focus on well-to-wheel rather than tailpipe emissions, will be key according to the IRU.

While the EU recognises the importance of modal cooperation, IRU calls for a level playing field between the different transport modes. Rather than a shift, IRU recommends a focus on innovation to build faster, greener and more profitable interconnectivity of transport modes. To incentivise such modal cooperation, one of IRU’s recommendations is to reinvest road user charges into road transport innovation projects.

In Europe, more than 50 per cent of goods are transported by road, which generates around €500 billion annual revenue and employs more than five million people. In the last 20 years, the road transport industry has heavily invested in innovative technologies, and in so doing, has managed to lower its emissions by up to 98 per cent. These figures, according to the IRU, demonstrate how sustainability is the guiding principle of the sector and what road transport means for the European economy.

“Only through cooperation will we achieve a more sustainable and prosperous future,” said Maedge. “Today, we can already pick some low hanging fruits, such as the cross-border use of high capacity vehicles and the use of collective mobility services instead of passenger cars.”

While IRU remains committed to pursuing decarbonisation efforts and working towards Europe’s goals, it also underlines the importance of a global vision when it comes to carbon neutrality.

“Only through cooperation will we achieve a more sustainable and prosperous future,” Maedge said. “Today, we can already pick some low hanging fruits, such as the cross-border use of high capacity vehicles and the use of collective mobility services instead of passenger cars.”

In alignment with European Transport Commissioner
Romania’s Adina-Ioana Vălean, a long-time Member of the European Parliament and current Chair of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, was appointed the position of European Commissioner for Transport by the European Parliament in September 2019.

Tasked with improving the functionality of the European transport sector, Vălean will play a central role in the European Green Deal and digital strategy according to the International Road Transport Union (IRU).

“We congratulate Adina Vălean and look forward to working together on smart legislation that will enable the commercial road transport sector in the EU to further innovate and decarbonise,” said Matthias Maedge, who is leading IRU’s activities in Europe.

“With demand in the freight and passenger sectors set to grow by 60 per cent and over 40 per cent respectively by 2050, close cooperation is essential,” he said.

One of IRU’s recommended priorities is modal cooperation.

“Logistics and mobility of people can only become more efficient and drive prosperity when all transport modes meet on a level-playing field,” said Maedge. “We appreciate Ms Vălean’s commitment to looking at all the options, and emphasise the importance of working in partnership with the road transport industry so that it can grow and innovate further as the lifeblood of Europe’s economy.“

IRU is committed to supporting Vălean and her team’s decarbonisation and digitalisation objectives.

IRU supports hydrogen use in road transport
The International Road Transport Union (IRU) joined the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) and Hydrogen Europe in calling for accelerated deployment of hydrogen refuelling infrastructure across Europe in order to meet ambitious decarbonisation targets set for road transport.

In a statement issued 10 October, the three organisations urge the European Commission, European Parliament and European Council to provide the right framework to support the roll-out of hydrogen infrastructure across Europe.

This implies revising the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive (AFID) to include hydrogen infrastructure and set mandatory targets for long distance transport and commercial vehicles; creating a hydrogen ecosystem across the continent; deploying funding to aid hydrogen projects and initiatives; and ensuring the hydrogen industry is operating in a supportive regulatory environment.

Road transport operators across Europe have embraced ambitious CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets according to IRU. Investment in new technology will be required in order to meet them, especially with demand in the freight and passenger sectors set to grow by 60 per cent and over 40 per cent respectively by 2050.

Hydrogen fuel cell technology – using sustainably produced hydrogen – is an attractive proposition compared to battery electric and complementary to CNG and LNG solutions for long-distance trucks and coaches due to its favourable energy content and operational flexibility for transport operators.

The news comes as IRU launched a new initiative to test hydrogen trucks and gather important data for the industry in cooperation with a European consortium of truck manufacturers, fuel cell suppliers and logistics companies. The H2Haul project will gather data during 5 years from a fleet of 16 heavy goods vehicles of up to 44 tonnes, operated by suppliers of supermarket chains in Switzerland, France, Germany and Belgium. Innovative hydrogen refuelling infrastructure will be installed at test locations to reliably and efficiently supply these trucks.

IRU extends reach in Russia

The International Road Transport Union (IRU) has named Vladimir Belay as its new General Delegate in Moscow, Russia.

Belay is reported to bring in-depth knowledge of road transport challenges and opportunities in the region. He has almost 20 years of experience in senior positions in Russian and international business including transport, logistics, automotive, manufacturing and supply chain sectors.

The Eurasian region is very important for IRU, notably as an environment for innovative transport policy and practice, and as the overland trade bridge between Europe and Asia.

“I have great pleasure in welcoming Vladimir to our team,” said IRU Secretary General Umberto de Pretto. “He will lead IRU’s work across the Eurasian region, particularly in advocacy and with the TIR system, with governments from the Commonwealth of Independent States and beyond, and multilateral partners such as the Eurasian Economic Commission. He will also be instrumental in representing the Eurasian region at key meetings and events.”

IRU said it is keen to continue working closely with members and partners in 2020 to facilitate trade and road transport for the region’s citizens, businesses and economies.

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