Exactly one year after introducing the Green Deal, the European Commission presented on 9 December 2020 the Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy. This Strategy outlines the path that the transport sector has to take to ensure the goal of a carbon neutral EU by 2050.
In order to achieve the goal of zero net greenhouse emissions by 2050, over the past twelve months the Commission published several strategies for those sectors, which produce the majority of greenhouse gas emissions: the industry, circular economy, food production, energy system and housing sector has now been followed by a comprehensive agenda for the transport sector.
In this Communication, the Commission describes the importance of this sector: the transport sector contributes 5 % to European GDP and directly employs around 10 million workers. It is also the second-largest area of expenditure for European households. However, the sector has not yet succeeded in reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. Hence, the Commission is targeting a sustainable transport system, which reduces its emissions by 90 % by 2050; at the same time, the transport system shall remain affordable for passengers and create good working conditions.
The Commission lists ten flagships: firstly, there shall be introduced at least 30 million zero-emission cars by 2030. By 2050, nearly all cars, vans, buses as well as new heavy-duty vehicles will be zero-emission. Both airports and ports shall become emission-neutral; zero-emission vessels and large zero-emission aircraft will become ready for market by 2030 and 2035, respectively. Urban and interurban mobility shall also become more sustainable, for example by doubling the number of passengers on high-speed trains by 2030 and tripling it by 2050. By doubling the share of rail freight traffic by 2050, rail transport shall also play a greater role. Apart from that, there shall be at least 100 climate neutral cities in Europe by 2030. Another milestone is the support and promotion of automated vehicles and the use of Artificial Intelligence in the transport sector as well as further efforts to increase road safety.
The ninth of the ten defined flagships aims at making mobility fair and just for all. The Commission points out that passenger transport shall become and remain affordable, that passenger rights shall be strengthened and that access for persons with limited mobility shall be improved. Public transport procurement rules shall also become more sustainable. However, the announcements regarding the improvements for workers in the transport industry remain negligible: even if the Commission notes that certain parts of workers suffer from harsh working conditions and low paid work, in concrete terms it only announces an initiative for workers in the shipping sector as well as amending the Certification of Train Drivers Directive. There is no mention of concrete plans for HGV and bus drivers or air transport workers, who are also frequently affected by wage and social dumping. The Commission plans to issue recommendations for the transition to automation and digitalisation and their impact on the transport workforce. At the same time, it wants to launch initiatives to increase the attractiveness of the transport sector.
Before publishing this strategy, the Austrian Chamber of Labour has participated in the associated Consultation, thereby demanding the focus to be placed on workers, public investments, urban transport and health. Whilst regarding most of these issues, positive points can be found, concrete actions in the fight against wage and social dumping in the transport sector remain insufficient. Hence the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) also criticises that the strategy is not lacking in positive headlines and targets, but very much in concrete measures, and how these might be implemented and achieved.