Aviation: Business as Usual ‘Dangerous’ & EU Seeks Secure Clean Tech Leadership: GMPB

Covered in this week’s Green Mobility Policy Brief: Green Deal Industrial Plan: securing the EU’s clean tech leadership; Business as usual ‘dangerous’ for aviation, warns Rome airport chief; Health impact of tyre particles causing ‘increasing concern’, say scientists;  Light Electric Vehicle Industry Sends Plea to Commissioner Timmermans; EU sees brutal drop in renewable energy used in transport; and Anger at Germany as vote to finalise combustion engine ban is delayed.  

Green Deal Industrial Plan: securing the EU’s clean tech leadership. Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have recently reacted to the Commission’s ambitious new Green Deal Industrial Plan (published on 1st February 2023), which in a nutshell, aims to support the EU’s manufacturing capacity for net-zero technologies and ultimately this will lead to hitting the EU’s climate targets. This plan works in conjunction with the European Green Deal and REPower EU, which are targeting a resource-efficient EU and a limited dependency on Russian oil imports. The foundations of the plan are built upon four pillars. Firstly, the Commission wants a predictable and simplified regulatory environment; the Critical Raw Materials Act assists this in ensuring sufficient access to rare earths to allow a net-zero. The second pillar is a faster access to investment and funding, which should include utilising current EU funds. Thirdly, the Commission wants to enhance the availability of green and digital skills via new skill programs, which will in turn increase the European job market. The fourth and final pillar of the plan is a proposition for open trade, particularly, exploring raw material partnerships and clean tech partnerships. Responding to the Green Deal Industrial Plan, MEPs have adopted a new resolution demanding the scaling up of strategic technologies. As well as deploying renewable energy sources, this will also help secure and improve the EU’s industrial base. MEPs also call for the Commission to “take a stronger stance on tackling unfair global competition caused by unjustified state aid”, and raised concerns on the implications of the implications of the US Inflation Reduction Act on EU companies. The resolution was adopted with 310 votes in favour, 155 against and 100 abstentions.– Zoe Picton

Business as usual ‘dangerous’ for aviation, warns Rome airport chief. According to Mark Harper, Secretary of State for Transport, the UK airports saw a 99% drop in aviation passenger numbers at the height of the pandemic, with a passenger revenue fall of over £250 billion during 2021. Harper further claimed that priority would be taken to continue business as usual, however, Marco Troncone, the CEO of Aeroporti di Roma, told Euractiv that this business-as-usual approach is ‘very dangerous, in terms of negative restrictions and punitive policies’. The Pact for the Decarbonisation of Air Transport has the aim of moving aviation emission cuts away from ‘slogans and groundless intentions’, focusing on realistic targets for a greener aviation sector. These steps are proven methods, however, the path towards decarbonisation is costly, with Troncone stating passengers will need to pay more to fly. This proposes economic struggles for the aviation industry if passenger numbers fall too greatly as a result. Furthermore, under the ReFuelEU regulation, airlines are required to refuel with a fraction coming from biofuels, but Troncone suggests the expected 15-30% sustainable fuel requirement would be simply impossible because of feedstock constraints. Troncone told Euractiv that electric planes, at present, can only cover short distances, and thinks electric planes could never allow longer journeys. Nevertheless, not all hope is lost, and Troncone sees the 10-year duration to meet the hydrogen jets requirement as ‘sufficient time for us to get equipped and ready for that’. – Hannah Santry 

Health impact of tyre particles causing ‘increasing concern’, say scientists. Growing concerns have been raised by Imperial College London over the health implications caused by particles from vehicle tyres. Government data has shown that more pollution particles now comes from tyre erosion compared to vehicle exhausts, as 52% of small particle pollution from road transport came from tyre and brake wear in 2021. Transport for London has been trialling new tyres which could reduce emissions by 35% and the EU will be regulating tyre emissions. The health concerns arise when small particles separate from tyres, become airborne and can then be inhaled. 26,000 to 38,000 early deaths in England are caused by air pollution every year, with particle pollution being linked to many diseases. Imperial announced that 6m annual tonnes of tyre wear particles are released globally. These particles often contain toxic chemicals including polyaromatic hydrocarbons and heavy metals. However, research on tyre wear and its effects are limited. Therefore, Imperial has called for policymakers and scientists to further their research on tyre wear and to find new solutions on the current health implications. Moreover, they request rigorous restrictions on harmful chemicals used in tyres. This follows continental patterns where Europeans demand regulators to act on transport emissions. – Tia Fishlock 

Light Electric Vehicle Industry Sends Plea to Commissioner Timmermans. Vice-President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, had proposed a ban on internal combustion engines in cars from 2035, which on the 14th of February, was approved by the European Parliament. Unequivocally, this would be hugely beneficial for the EU’s Green Deal goals and important in reducing emissions, and Timmermans plead this to the car industry to bring it into action. In turn, this triggered a response from LEVA-EU, a trade association focusing on light electric vehicles (LEVs) within Europe who made a plea of their own via an open letter. The main line of argument from Annick Roetynck, LEVA-EU Manager, advocates for a “systematic uniform application of the term LEV and LEM (Light Electric Mobility) in European policy and legal texts.” Roetynck offers a range of advantages of LEVs and points to the fact that LEVs produce less emissions, occupy less space, are better for public health, and promote higher sociability. Electric cars are not always wholly practical due to the lack of EV charging points at regular stations that are easily accessible. Electric bikes are not currently marketable; she states in the letter that roughly 87 million people in Europe have some kind of disability which means this option is not feasible. Moreover, electric scooters are not allowed on public roads in the Netherlands and sometimes have limited uses in other countries too. All these reasons contribute to Roetynck’s adamance that LEVs are the future of sustainable transport in Europe. – Zoe Picton 

EU sees brutal drop in renewable energy used in transport. Recent statistics released by the EU statistics agency Eurostat showed a major drop in the amount of renewable energy used within the transport sector for 2021. Out of the 27 member states, renewable energy share improvements were only seen in Croatia, Finland, Denmark, and Lithuania. Ireland, Hungary, and Luxembourg experienced the highest downfall in renewable energy. Ireland dropped from 10.2% renewables share in 2020 to 4.3% in 2021. Hungary dropped from a 11.6% share to 6.2% and Luxembourg also saw a massive decrease of 36.7%, going from a 12.6% share in 2020 to 8% in 2021. According to the European Commission, an explanation for the renewable energy drop is the updated Renewable Energy Directive (RED II). This is because when it came into force it mandated a new approach to renewable energy calculation. One of RED II’s significant adjustments is that the number of biofuels made from used cooking oil and some animal fats, that can contribute to transport renewable targets, is capped at 1.7% (Malta and Cyprus are exempt from this cap). The 1.7% cap can be modified but it must be approved by the European Commission. A 2022 study by the International Council for Clean Transportation (ICCT) concluded that the increased demand for biofuels from UCO increases the risk that restricted feedstock such as virgin palm oil will be illicitly used to bulk up imported UCO quantities. Therefore, the industry stressed that all importing companies are legally required to follow the EU’s imposed safeguards.  – Shantelle Gondo

Anger at Germany as vote to finalise combustion engine ban is delayed.  Earlier this month, media reports suggested that EU diplomats had been ‘annoyed’ by Germany’s U-turn on the ban on the sale of new combustion engine cars by 2035. This has led to the postponement to approve the law. However, in 2021, Automotive News Europe stated German positions around this potential legislation were signalling a battle could be brewing within the EU. 2021 saw German Transport Minister, Andreas Scheuer, warn the European Commission against setting high standards and targets for the auto industry. Now, Euractiv reports that the new German Transport Minister, Volker Wissing, is pushing the Commission to allow e-fuels to be allowed in combustion engine vehicles after 2035. Nonetheless, the Commission Vice-President told reporters during Valentine’s Day that e-fuels should not be accepted. Germany is not the only country against this proposed legislation, with Italy, Poland, and Bulgaria backing the refusal of the new law. Not everyone saw the lack of support as negative, however. The centre right EPP group welcomed the postponing of the law, with MEP Jens Gieske claiming the ban will prevent innovation and lead to the loss of thousands of jobs, ultimately affecting the European industry. – Hannah Santry