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EU Council adopts conclusions on sustainable transportation


Member States back European Commission on low-carbon transportation

Council wants transport sector aligned with Paris Agreement

Transport emissions to remain higher in 2030 than 1990 levels

The EU Council on June 3 adopted conclusions on a Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy, setting out a commitment to align the transportation sector with the Paris Agreement on climate change.

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The Council's adoption of conclusions means the EU member states have collectively given their backing for the European Commission's goal to transform the transportation sector into a low-carbon and sustainable industry.

"With these conclusions we, the Transport Ministers, are sending a clear political message regarding our commitment to a more sustainable, inclusive, intelligent, safe and resilient transport system," said Pedro Nuno Santos, Portuguese minister for infrastructure and president of the six-month rotating EU Council.

"This transformation is essential and will be a major contribution to meeting the objective of a climate-neutral EU by 2050, in line with the Paris Agreement," he said in a statement.

The EU Council underlined its support for the EC's "ambitious vision for the transport sector and sets out its understanding regarding the sector's contribution to sustainability over the coming years and decades," the Council said.

In its conclusions, the Council said all transport modes should contribute to a "substantial reduction in the transport sector's emissions by 2030 and by 2050 in a way that preserves their competitiveness and takes into account their emission reduction potential."

Ministers also invited the EC to assess how each measure in its Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy will ensure that transport modes can best contribute to achieving the EU's 2030 and 2050 emissions reduction targets.

That assessment should include an in-depth examination of the environmental, economic and social impact at Member State level, the Council said.

Reducing dependence on fossil fuels

With a goal to substantially reduce the consumption of and dependence on fossil fuels, the Council said an ambitious but balanced shift towards zero-emissions vehicles, vessels, aircraft systems and fleets, requires an update of the EU legislative framework.

This should promote the take-up of alternative propulsion systems such as those powered by electricity or hydrogen, complemented by an extensive roll-out of supportive infrastructure including the deployment of recharging and refueling points for alternative fuels, it said.

The Council also underlined its support for the "polluter pays" and "user pays" principles which should be reflected in transport policy measures across the sector and said incentives to promote the take-up of more sustainable transport should be put in place, including for the renewal and retrofitting of vehicles, vessels, aircraft systems and fleets.

The Council also said it had taken into account a range of EU strategic policy objectives, including on the digitalization of transport, decarbonization, building a hydrogen market for Europe, making a COVID-19 recovery circular and green, and putting rail at the forefront of smart and sustainable mobility.

The Council's conclusions are important because emissions from the transport sector have not followed the EU's general decreasing emissions trend and have the potential to derail the bloc's wider climate targets without specific efforts to promote cleaner fuels.

National projections indicate that by 2030, greenhouse gas emissions from transport will decrease relatively little from current levels and will remain higher than 1990 levels.

By 2030 the EU's transport emissions are projected to reach 1.097 billion mt of CO2 equivalent with existing measures, and 970 million mt CO2e with additional measures, according to figures updated by the European Environment Agency May 11.

"These projected trends suggest that the transport sector is unlikely to contribute to the emissions reductions needed to achieve the EU's new targets for 2030 or to achieving climate neutrality by 2050," the EEA warned in the report.