Around 6% of total EU GHG emissions, more than 25% of emissions from road transport and huge dependence on imported fossil fuels: The climate footprint of heavy-duty vehicles highlights the need for action. The proposal to tighten CO2 standards for new heavy-duty vehicles is not only the EU Commission's response to the almost steady increase in transport emissions since 2014; it is also intended to strengthen competitiveness of European manufactures and reduce energy dependency. However, successful decarbonisation needs a more comprehensive approach. What this must include is the subject of an AK EUROPA position paper.
The urgency of effective action in transport is undisputed, as it is the only sector to have seen a further increase in emissions in recent years. Recognising the need for action to achieve the necessary phase-out of fossil fuels, the European Commission proposed revised CO2 emission standards for heavy-duty vehicles on 14 February 2023. With the help of a faster reduction of CO2 emissions of trucks (over 5 t), city buses and coaches (over 7.5 t) as well as trailers compared to 2019, the restructuring should succeed. For new registrations, manufacturers are to ensure that fleet-based specific CO2 emissions per kilometre are reduced by 45% by 2030, 65% by 2035 and 90% by 2040. This proposal is ambitious, but within the realm of possibility, said the responsible Commissioner Frans Timmermans in a press conference announcing the proposal.
Decarbonisation of road transport by 2050 missed
From the point of view of AK, it is clear that the quantitative fleet limits set are not sufficient to achieve the decarbonisation of road transport by 2050. At 45%, the reduction target for 2030 is even markedly below the voluntary target of renowned European manufacturers; it should therefore be raised to 60%. Especially in the time horizon until 2035 and in view of the useful life of heavy commercial vehicles, ambitious standards are important in order to achieve the necessary targets. A complete ban on fossil-fuelled combustion engines should be aimed for by 2040 at the latest. However, the exact date also depends on the approach of other economic blocs, hence concretisation should take place later.
Potential for a comprehensive restructuring of heavy goods transport
While the declared objectives of the proposal are welcomed in principle, a successful and socially just decarbonisation of freight transport requires a broader perspective from the point of view of AK. The far-reaching restructuring of heavy goods transport must not take place without taking into account sector-specific challenges with regard to prevailing working and pay conditions. With Europe-wide controls of legal or collective agreement provisions, the fight against poor employment conditions must be declared. The desired decarbonisation is part of a profound change in both economy and society, for which the participation of large parts of the population is indispensable. This can only happen if measures are fair and in the interest of workers.
AK's central concerns at a glance:
- Comprehensive approach for successful decarbonisation: The consideration of social and labour policy aspects is pivotal. It is also indispensable to embed decarbonisation efforts in a broad industrial policy framework.
- The CO2 -targets for city buses must not jeopardise the expansion of public transport. Public transport operators need subsidies for the procurement of expensive emission-free buses.
- The CO2 -targets for 2030 and 2035 are not ambitious enough. Without timely renewal of the existing fleet, the EU will not achieve climate neutrality in 2050.
- Having said that, without decoupling transport growth from economic growth, it will not be possible to reach the targets. To achieve this, it is not only essential to ensure that HDV transport is fully cost-reflective in terms of infrastructure and external costs. The expansion of rail transport is also indispensable for the energy-efficient handling of freight transport.
AK EUROPA Position Paper: New CO2 standards for lorries and expansion of their scope to include buses
Factsheet - CO2 Emission Standards for Heavy Duty Vehicles
EU Commission: European Green Deal: Commission proposes 2030 zero-emissions target for new city buses and 90 % emissions reductions for new trucks by 2040
EURACTIV: EU retains combustion engines for trucks with 90% CO2 reduction target