As Civil War Wages Over ICE Ban, the European Commission Cracks Down on Greenwashing: GMPB

Covered in this week’s Green Mobility Policy Brief: Europe lurches into civil war over car engine ban; The European Commission prepares to crack down on greenwashing with new Green Claims law; The EU takes first step to ensure green technologies are made in Europe; Land used for European biofuels could feed 120 million people daily. 

Europe lurches into civil war over car engine ban. Following a meeting on Monday, March 13, in Strasbourg, France. The EU’s automotive industry’s future of internal combustion engines was turned into a France vs Germany civil war over car engine ban. In the meeting led by Germany, car-friendly countries were involved in a debate against EU legislation which would be part of landmark efforts to slash greenhouse gas emissions from transport. The key ministers from these countries urged that although already agreed by the European Parliament and member countries, the rules to end the sale of new combustion-engine cars by 2035 needed to change. France along with other countries including Spain, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Ireland and the Netherlands signalled that they would stand behind the EU’s 2035 zero-emission plan as they believe that the rules are ‘an economic and environmental mistake ‘. On the other hand, after Germany’s previous rejection of Brussels’ first attempt of the 2035 proposal, Germany along with other countries including; Poland, Italy, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic are now looking for a way for cars to be able to run on electro-fuels – a synthetic and slightly greener alternative to fossil fuels that can be used in conventional combustion engines. The row between Germany and France weakens Europe’s claim to be a global leader in cutting greenhouse gas emissions. – Shantelle Gondo  

The European Commission prepares to crack down on greenwashing with a new Green Claims law. With threats of greenwashing continuously hampering green and sustainable transition, the EU has a responsibility to further regulate companies’ environmental claims on products. The new Green Claims Directive (GCD) law aims to break down the risks of ‘green washing’ amidst false environmental declarations by companies and protect consumers from misleading claims on ‘eco-friendly’ products. The GCD has the aim to bring order to the market of green advertising, making it essential for companies to provide supporting evidence alongside making a ‘green’ claim. With 75% of products on the market in 2014 making some sort of environmental claim, and over half of these products displaying misleading and ‘vague’ green claims, for example, 230 EU ecolabels being weak with no verification procedure, the GCD will expand the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) and regulate all types of green claims. The GCD is predicted to wipe out the overpopulation of weak EU ecolabels, requiring a foundation of strong governance principles, including certification and verification processes. Additionally, in line with the European Green Deal’s commitment to tackling false environmental claims, companies shall be forced to increase transparency and, thereby, increase consumer confidence in the products they buy, enabling them to make reliable sustainable decisions that will support a green transition. – Hannah Santry

The EU takes first step to ensure green technologies are made in Europe. The 16th of March saw two draft laws revealed. The Critical Raw Materials Act aims to support the bloc secure supply of metals needed for batteries, wind turbines, and other green technologies. Critical raw materials hold high economic importance in Europe but are vulnerable to supply disruptions. The growing global demand for these metals, for example, rare earth metals demand expecting to increase six times by 2030, the need to strengthen the European critical raw materials value chain, and diversifying Europe’s imports to avoid dependence is crucial. The Net Zero Industrial Act should act as a positive step to ensure that the EU’s economic transition to net zero emissions will be reached with technologies made in Europe. As part of the Green Deal Industrial Plan, the legislation focuses on technologies that contribute to the net-zero target and attract investment, hence strengthening the competitiveness of net-zero technologies manufactured within the EU. 2030 should see Europe processing a minimum of 40% of strategic metals required with T&E claiming the goal to source more raw materials within Europe will be key in preventing dependence on Asia. T&E highlighted, in an analysis, that Europe can extract more than half of the required lithium by 2030, with a target of 15% of metals obtained from recycling processes. However, there is a need for further actions to set up new projects within Europe, including a fast influx of financial aid and an in-depth European Climate Finance Plan. – Hannah Santry 

Land used for European biofuels could feed 120 million people daily. According to a press release published on Thursday, March 9, a new study commissioned by T&E shows that Europe wastes land the size of Ireland on biofuels. This wasted land could be used to create carbon sinks or used to feed 120 million people, which would also include the 50 million people that the UN says are ‘in emergency or worse levels of acute insecurity’. The Biofuels Senior Campaign Manager, Maik Marahrens, said: “Biofuels are a failed experiment. To continue to burn food as fuel while the world is facing a growing global food crisis is borderline criminal. Countries like Germany and Belgium are discussing limiting food crop biofuels in response. The rest of Europe must follow the same suit.” In Europe, the crop biofuels that are consumed require a total of 9.6 million hectares of land which is even bigger than Ireland. Therefore, if this was returned to its normal state it could absorb around 65 million tons of CO2 from the air. Additionally, the study analysis finds that using the land for solar farms would be more sustainable. This is because on average when using biofuels, you need 40 times more land to power a car compared to an electric car powered by solar energy. The EU aims to tackle and reverse the use of biofuel feedstocks taking up Europe’s croplands. A significant step to take in achieving this could be by ending the use of land for biofuels. – Shantelle Gondo