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Highlights

Timmermans expects to raise EU-wide target to 55%

Wants clean cars, not no cars; switch from fossil fuel

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Brussels — EU climate commissioner-nominee Frans Timmermans plans to target shipping, aviation and road transport to cut EU CO₂ emissions by 2030 more quickly than currently agreed, he told European Parliament members late Tuesday.

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The plans would put pressure on shipping to use lower carbon fuels just as the sector is moving to comply with the International Maritime Organization's new sulfur fuel cap from January 1, known as IMO 2020.

"I want to roll out new, clean, efficient, affordable transport infrastructure," Timmermans told MEPs during a three-hour confirmation hearing.

"Have you seen how polluting ships are? We need to prevent that," he said.

If confirmed in his "European Green Deal" portfolio, Timmermans said he would bring shipping and aviation into the EU's Emissions Trading System, which uses a cap and trade mechanism to reduce EU industrial emissions by a fixed percentageeach year.

The EU ETS currently covers heavy industry such as power plants, refineries and steel furnaces.

Timmermans would also look at other measures to cut shipping emissions, such as speed limits and how ship engines usefuel.

"These engines are highly polluting," he said. "I want green ports. I want ships to take electricity from the ports, instead of burning this horrible fuel."

The EU would look to work with the IMO on cutting emissions, but would work alone if needed, he added.

Listen to our editors discuss alternative maritime fuels in this short podcast: Fuels of the Future

55% CO₂ TARGET FOR 2030

Timmermans said he would propose by early February a law to bind the EU to becoming climate-neutral by 2050, and start immediately on researching how much higher the EU's 2030 CO₂ target should be to help achieve this.

The EU already has a binding target to cut its economy-wide emissions by at least 40% from 1990 levels by 2030, agreed last year.

"I will be extremely surprised if what the research shows is not at least 55%," he said.

The European Commission has estimated that the EU will cut its emissions by around 45% by 2030, if it fully implements all existing legislation.

Getting to a 55% cut on 1990 levels would need "tough extra measures," Timmermans said.

He said he would aim to have the new 2030 target, and the evidence supporting it, ready before the next UN climate conference, COP26, which is planned in late 2020 in Glasgow.

It usually takes the European Parliament and EU Council, representing national governments, around two years to debate and agree EC legislative proposals.

This means national governments are likely to have less than seven years to take measures to meet a stricter 2030 CO₂ target.

CLEAN CARS, NOT NO CARS

Timmermans also said he wanted to see clean cars, not no cars, in the EU.

He was not averse, in principle, to including road transport in the EU ETS.

He was clear, however, that this should not be used as an alternative to binding vehicle emission limits, which he said were the most effective method to cut road transport CO₂.

EU rules require new trucks to emit 15% less CO₂ on average by 2025, and 30% less from 2030, compared with 2019.

They also require new cars to emit 37.5% less CO₂ on average and new vans 31% less CO₂ on average by 2030, compared with 2021.

The rules are expected to boost demand for lower carbon fuels, such as LNG, hydrogen and electricity.

"We have to try, quickly, to free ourselves from this dependence on fossil fuels," Timmermans said.

Timmermans is set to start a five-year mandate from November 1, if the parliament approves the entire group of nominated EU commissioners on schedule.

-- Siobhan Hall, siobhan.hall@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Alisdair Bowles, alisdair.bowles@spglobal.com