Drivers should face lower speed limits on motorways and be obliged to learn eco-driving techniques so that transport does not undermine the European Union’s ability to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, according to a report funded by the European Commission.
The report will provoke debate within the Commission, as officials consider how to make good on a promise drastically to reduce emissions from transport.
EU leaders have repeatedly called for all rich countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 80%-95% by 2050 compared to 1990 levels. But emissions from transport have shot up since 1990, prompting concerns that enthusiasm for driving, flying and freighting goods over long distances could scupper the EU’s low-carbon ambitions.
Last year, when making his bid for a second term as European Commission president, José Manuel Barroso said that the “decarbonisation” of transport would be a priority for this Commission. Siim Kallas, the European commissioner for transport, has been charged with drawing up a white paper on the future of transport, expected at the end of the year.
The new report, written by AEA Technology and four other consultancies, was published quietly by the Commission’s climate action department on Tuesday (15 June). It amounts to a direct challenge to Kallas, with its stark conclusion that technical fixes alone will not be enough.
The report describes the role of technology as limited in creating a greener transport network.
Some contribution could come from biofuels and more energy-efficient vehicles, cutting greenhouse-gas emissions from transport by 36% by 2050 compared to 1990 levels. And fuel-efficiency standards for ships and planes, as well as tougher criteria for cars and vans, could also help, it says.
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Falling short of targets
But even with less-polluting vehicles, the transport sector would still fall short of the 80%-95% target for economy-wide emissions reductions that EU leaders want, it states. This would mean that other parts of the economy – industry, households and farmers – would have to make even deeper cuts in their emissions.
The AEA team say that “non-technical measures”, such as “improved” urban planning that favours environmentally friendly transport, as well as enforcing speed limits and more fuel- efficient driving, could help the transport sector to cut emissions by 89% by 2050.