The European Commission recently proposed a target for greenhouse gases (GHG) from transport (1). The target, set out in the White Paper on Transport 2011 (2) has the potential to drive significant change in our transport system.
The transport sector is the second biggest contributor of GHG emissions in the EU, responsible for about 25% of all emissions. Transport emissions have increased by 27% since 1990, while the EU’s overall emissions have fallen by 15.5% in the same period, meaning transport emissions represent an increasing proportion of the EU’s emissions. Within the transport sector, approximately 70% of emissions come from road transport.
So the new targets are extremely important – and ambitious. The White Paper states that emissions should be reduced by 20% from 2008 levels by 2030, and by at least 60% from 1990 levels by 2050. And because emissions have increased in the last two decades, the actual cut required from 2009 to 2050 is closer to 68%.
Transport emissions have increased by 27% since 1990, while the EU’s overall emissions have fallen by 15.5% in the same period.
Currently, most car emissions reductions are derived from improved efficiency in the use of conventional fuels. The EU began introducing voluntary average CO2 targets for new passenger cars. However, although this achieved some emission reductions, the industry failed to meet its own targets (140g/km in 2008/2009).
This failure led to a formal regulation on CO2 emissions from cars and, more recently, vans. The regulation specifies that vehicle manufacturers must achieve a fleet average CO2 emission target of 130g/km by 2015 for all new cars registered in the EU. Going further towards an emissions target of 120g/km CO2, an additional reduction of 10g/km is to be achieved via additional measures like tyre pressure indicators and low rolling-resistance tyres. The regulation also defines a target of 95g CO2/km by 2020.
There are signs that the policy is working. First results show that CO2 emissions from passenger cars are decreasing at a higher rate since the introduction of the mandatory CO2 performance standards. Average CO2 emissions in 2010 were 140.3g CO2/km, which represents a reduction of 5.4g CO2/km compared to the previous year. This is the second largest drop in specific emissions since the monitoring scheme began. This week the European Environment Agency published a new database looking at each manufacturer’s distance to their individual targets.
First results show that CO2 emissions from passenger cars are decreasing at a higher rate since the introduction of the mandatory CO2 performance standards.
Should the automotive industry maintain the rate of reductions achieved in 2009 and 2010, the CO2 targets for passenger cars for 2015 and 2020 seem realistic and perfectly achievable.
However, the official data should be treated with care when assessing final progress in mitigating climate change. The type-approval measurement procedure that forms the basis for the regulation does not fully capture all energy-consuming vehicle technologies, and it will never be able to account for real-world driving habits and effects on fuel consumption. There are on-going efforts to create policies which will close this gap.
It is unlikely that technology alone will meet the demanding 60% reduction target – it will also require behaviour change. People should be able to make informed choices when buying or using a private vehicle, choosing both the type of vehicle and the type of ownership. These options should allow people to choose the best alternative based on the needs and real costs of each trip, helping to reduce transport’s overall impact on the environment.
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Automotive World Ltd.
Alfredo Sanchez Vicente is Transport and Environment Expert at the European Environment Agency
For more information about the European Environment Agency, visit: www.eea.europa.eu
1. All major greenhouse gases in CO2 equivalent, for 27 EU Member States
2. White Paper Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area – Towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system (COM(2011) 144 final)
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