Timmermans looks to constructive engagement with road transport sector on EU decarbonisation

4 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineSeptember 30, 2020

IRU, with several CEOs and presidents of IRU members, has held high-level talks with European Commission executive vice president Frans Timmermans on the EU‘s decarbonisation strategy and implementation of the Green Deal.

Covering passenger and goods transport, the video conference outlined the road transport sector‘s vision and expectations in working closely together with the European Commission to achieve net carbon neutrality by 2050, as well as the interim 2030 target. It was clearly said that the EU should revisit its strategy to implement the well-to-wheel approach and take into account the real experiences of operators.

IRU president Radu Dinescu and IRU vice president Patrick Westelinck, from UNTRR in Romania and FBAA in Belgium respectively, gave an overview of the issues for goods and passenger transport. 

They reiterated the huge impact that the pandemic has had on road transport operators, but echoed that road transport is part of the solution – in driving efficiency to make goods transport greener, and in unlocking the potential of road-based collective passenger transport as a safe, affordable, accessible, flexible and rapid way to lower emissions. 

Noting that the EU‘s 900,000 road transport operators employ 5% of all European workers and that the sector has been hit very hard by Covid-19, speakers covered a range of specific issues including fleet renewal and the high cost of new low-emission vehicles; uptake of hydrogen, LNG and bio methane; infrastructure, incentives and lowering fuel taxes for clean fuels; and establishing a level playing field between the modes. 

Summing up the talks, IRU secretary general Umberto de Pretto said that IRU and the sector are committed to help deliver the EU‘s Green Deal and welcomed the commission‘s willingness to better understand the reality for commercial operators on the ground. 

However, he added that the commission needed to base its CO2 policy on well-to-wheel emissions; encourage modal cooperation rather than using blunt force modal shift that often favours rail over other modes; and to recognise the operational and physical limits of energy use and storage, especially for heavy loads over longer distances. 

“The EU‘s strategy is too electric, too railway and too tailpipe focused,” said de Pretto.

Timmermans responded by welcoming the industry‘s constructive engagement, recognising the huge importance of road transport and its value to the EU economy, and therefore the need to continue dialogues such as this. 

He clearly sees hydrogen as the longer-term solution, especially for long-distance road transport, and that electricity is part of the solution.

However, he said that the commission does not believe in the practical implementation of the well-to-wheel approach, noting that he considers energy technology, including the exit from coal and green electricity, to be evolving sufficiently quickly. 

Recognising that EU climate targets are tough, he reinforced that it is crucial to work together with IRU and the industry to achieve them. 

IRU will continue dialogue on behalf of the industry with Timmermans and other parts of the European Commission over the coming months to help shape key legislative directives including those on climate law, energy tax, alternative fuel infrastructure and the review of the heavy duty vehicle CO2 regulation.