What do we want to achieve ?
Europe's transport system has been a huge success, connecting people across the continent and reducing journey times. As we have all become more mobile, so the carbon footprint of our transport activities has grown. Transport currently accounts for a quarter of the EU's greenhouse gas emissions and this figure continues to rise as demand grows. The European Green Deal seeks a 90% reduction in these emissions by 2050. Moving to more sustainable transport means putting users first and providing them with more affordable, accessible, healthier and cleaner alternatives.
A key objective is to boost considerably the uptake of clean vehicles and alternative fuels. By 2025, about 1 million public recharging and refuelling stations will be needed for the 13 million zero- and low-emission vehicles expected on European roads. The Commission is supporting and financing the deployment of recharging and refuelling points where persistent gaps exist, notably for long-distance travel and less densely populated areas.
Achieving the ambitious climate goals also requires a shift to more sustainable transport modes such as rail and inland waterways. For this to happen, the capacity of both modes will need to be both extended and better managed.
Multimodal transport – the combining of various transport modes throughout a journey – can also increase the use of sustainable transport modes, but needs a strong boost. The Combined Transport Directive is important here – it is designed to support multimodal freight operations involving rail and waterborne transport, including short-sea shipping.
Improving efficiency across the whole transport system is crucial. Digital technologies enabling automated mobility and smart traffic management systems, for example, will help with efficiency while also making transport cleaner. Smart applications and ‘Mobility as a Service' solutions will also play an important role. In aviation, the Single European Sky initiative should significantly reduce aviation emissions at zero cost to consumers and companies by reducing flight times.
The negative environmental and health costs of transport – also known as externalities – are not generally reflected in prices. To rectify this, the Commission envisages extending emissions trading to the maritime sector and reducing the EU Emissions Trading System allowances currently allocated to airlines for free. This will be coordinated with action at global level, notably at the International Civil Aviation Organization (through CORSIA) and the International Maritime Organization. Other EU action in support of the ‘polluter-pays' principle includes effective road pricing in the EU, as well as ending subsidies for fossil fuel.
It is in cities that pollution is felt the most. A combination of measures is needed to address air quality, emissions, urban congestion and noise. These include improving public transport and promoting active modes of transport such as walking and cycling. The EU will pay particular attention to reducing pollution in EU ports as well as the pollutants emitted by aeroplanes and airport operations.
The Commission supports the transition to sustainable mobility through the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF). Committed to spending 60% of the budget on infrastructure projects with a link to sustainability, CEF will be important in creating a European network of charging infrastructure for alternative fuels, and in enabling a highly performing, interoperable European railway network.
The ReFuelEU Aviation initiative launched on 14 July 2021 contains an obligation on airlines to uplift SAF-blended aviation fuel when departing from EU airports. And at the same time, it introduces an obligation on fuel suppliers to include increasing shares of SAF into jet fuel from 2025 to 2050. These EU-wide harmonised rules for sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) will apply to all operators and therefore ensure a level-playing field.
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