EU Member States Call for Limits on Private Jets as UK Urged Not to Enter into Car Subsidy War with EU & US: GMPB

Covered in this week’s Green Mobility Policy Brief: EU Member States call on EU to limit and regulate private jets; UK urged to improve business climate for auto industry and not to enter subsidy race with EU and US; UK faces legal challenge over active travel funding cuts; Africa’s green future lies in sustainable mobility: GIZ and Agora Verkehrswende.

EU Member States call on the EU to limit and regulate private jets. Austria, France, Ireland, and the Netherlands have urged the European Union (EU) to strengthen regulations in order to mitigate the environmental impact of private jet travel. The four countries emphasised in a document seen by Reuters, and shared with EU member states before a transport ministers’ meeting, that the disproportionately high carbon footprint per capita associated with private jet travel necessitates EU-wide action, including stronger regulatory measures to ensure that everyone contributes equitably to the overall decarbonization effort. A report prepared by Jasper Faber and Sander Raphaël for CE Delft published in March 20232 found that 39% of private flights in Europe travelled distances less than 500 km, leading to stark criticism of the sector by climate activists. The EU’s transport Commissioner, Adina Vălean, indicated that she had “no intention” to impose further regulations on private jets before the European elections in 2024. Vălean’s position was promptly criticised by Stay Grounded, an activist group which is calling for a ban on private jets, a ban of frequent flyer programmes, and a frequent flyer levy. Magdalena Heuwieser, spokesperson at Stay Grounded said: “This is another missed opportunity to target the unfair luxury emissions of the super-rich”.

The UK is urged to improve the business climate for the auto industry and not enter subsidy race with the EU and the US. A leading conservative think tank, Policy Exchange, has published a report which raises alarm bells about the state of the United Kingdom’s automotive industry. In the executive summary, Geoffrey Owen, Head of Industrial Policy, writes “The UK auto industry is facing a set of problems which could lead to a serious decline in production and employment: it is lagging behind European competitors in managing the transition to electric cars; Brexit has made the UK a less attractive investment location for non-British manufacturers; and there is some uncertainty over the future direction of Jaguar Land Rover, the largest employer among the UK-based car assemblers.” The report’s authors suggest that in light of these challenges, the United Kingdom should not seek to match subsidies introduced in the much larger US and EU markets, but rather focus efforts on increasing stability and understanding around industrial policy and on addressing challenges which are unique to automakers. The authors suggest that the UK should undertake a “realistic assessment” of the automobile industry and out of that assessment, create a “coherent policy on which manufacturers and investors can rely”. According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), UK car manufacturing output has seen a significant decline since 2019, and exports dropped a further 14% in 2022 compared to the year prior.

UK faces legal challenge over active travel funding cuts. The UK Government’s decision to reduce investment in walking and cycling in England is now being challenged in a legal dispute. The Transport Action Network (TAN), an advocacy group, has sent a letter to the Department for Transport (DfT) requesting a judicial review of the funding cuts. TAN argues that the government’s actions bypassed legal procedures and put at risk its commitments concerning the climate emergency and air pollution. Previously, the government had made a commitment that by 2030, half of all urban journeys would be conducted on foot or by bicycle. However, the transport secretary, Mark Harper, announced a 50% reduction in funding for active travel in England. TAN’s legal team claims that, outside of London, the funding for active travel would only amount to £1 per person per year, which is significantly lower than the funding allocated to Wales (£23) and Scotland (£58). TAN asserts that these funding cuts go against the government’s own strategy for walking and cycling and hinder efforts to achieve net zero targets. They further argue that the failure to promote more active travel would lead to missed targets for improving air quality and undermine obligations related to equality. TAN is seeking support through crowdfunding to cover the costs of the legal case, and the outcome of this challenge could have significant implications for the future of active travel in England.

Africa’s green future lies in sustainable mobility: GIZ and Agora Verkehrswende. The achievement of sustainable economic growth in Africa relies on the adoption of climate-neutral transportation, according to a new discussion paper jointly released by GIZ and Agora Verkehrswende. The paper emphasises the importance of fostering a vision for environmentally friendly mobility within African nations and calls for international collaboration in promoting sustainable transport and climate protection. The paper presents 12 insights into the establishment of climate-friendly transportation systems and infrastructure in Africa, while cautioning against the pitfalls of car-centric development and fossil fuel dependency witnessed in other countries. It stresses the significance of aligning spatial planning and transport infrastructure development with climate protection goals, social justice, quality of life, and resilience to crises. Commenting on the paper, Christian Hochfeld, Director of Agora Verkehrswende, noted: “If African countries are to pursue climate protection goals, they must be able to determine their own strategies and solutions. The transformation must also be economically worthwhile for them. They have contributed the least to global warming, but will be strongly affected by the impacts.”

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