European Commission Greenlights €6.9bn in State Aid for the Hydrogen Sector & EP TRAN Committee Supports Green Trucks and Buses: GMPB

Covered in this week’s Green Mobility policy brief: European Commission greenlights €6.9bn in state aid for the hydrogen sector; transport MEPs endorse new guidelines for trans-European transport projects; transport committee advocates for greener trucks and buses; EU implements stricter measures against greenwashing: new regulations set to impact business practices.

La Soirée January 2024 Report – Implementation and Realism on the Minds of European Sustainable Transport Stakeholders

European Commission Greenlights €6.9bn in State Aid for the Hydrogen Sector.  

The European Commission has greenlighted a significant move towards hydrogen infrastructure development, as seven Member States receive approval for up to €6.9 billion in state aid under EU rules. This substantial investment supports the third Important Project of Common European Interest (IPCEI) to bolster the hydrogen value chain. The project is “IPCEI Hy2Infra” and marks a collaborative effort between France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, and Slovakia. Its primary objective is to ramp up renewable hydrogen production, thereby diminishing reliance on natural gas and aligning with the objectives of the European Green Deal and the REPowerEU Plan. IPCEI Hy2Infra encompasses a broad scope of activities, including deploying large-scale electrolysers, expanding hydrogen transmission and distribution pipelines, developing hydrogen storage facilities, and constructing handling terminals. These efforts are anticipated to foster an integrated and open hydrogen network across Europe, fostering the decarbonisation of hydrogen-reliant sectors. The initiative involves 33 projects by 32 companies, including five SMEs, fostering collaborations among various stakeholders across Europe. Public funding amounting to €6.9 billion is expected to catalyse private investments totalling €5.4 billion, unlocking substantial economic potential. With projects slated for implementation over the coming years, IPCEI Hy2Infra represents a significant step towards realising the European Union’s vision for a sustainable and resilient hydrogen economy. Moreover, its inclusion in several Member States’ Recovery and Resilience Plans underscores its strategic importance in post-pandemic economic recovery efforts.

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Transport MEPs Endorse New Guidelines for Trans-European Transport Projects.

The Transport and Tourism Committee has given its nod to a deal between Parliament and Council negotiators on updated trans-European transport network (TEN-T) guidelines. The agreement aims to revitalise the EU’s blueprint for constructing a robust network encompassing railways, roads, inland waterways, and short-sea shipping routes interlinked through ports and terminals across the European Union. The provisional agreement, inked last December between Council and Parliament negotiators led by EP rapporteurs Barbara Thaler and Dominque Riquet, heralds a new era in developing TEN-T projects. Noteworthy among the current projects are Rail Baltica, connecting Helsinki and Warsaw, the Brenner Base Tunnel bridging Austria and Italy, and the high-speed rail line between Lisbon and Madrid. During the negotiations, MEPs secured a heightened emphasis on intermodal transport, predominantly driven by rail, inland waterways, or short-sea shipping. The updated guidelines reinforce this focus by advocating for electrified railways within the core TEN-T network, capable of reaching speeds of 160 km/h for passenger rail and 100 km/h for freight. Furthermore, the agreement stipulates that these railways must traverse internal EU borders in less than 25 minutes on average by the conclusion of 2030. Crucially, EU member states have committed to completing major transport infrastructure projects on the core TEN-T network by 2030 and extending to the comprehensive network by 2050. The primary focus lies on alleviating bottlenecks and bridging missing transport links, thereby fostering seamless connectivity across the continent. The provisional agreement has received solid backing with 35 votes in favour, one against, and two abstentions.

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Transport Committee Advocates for Greener Trucks and Buses.

The Transport and Tourism Committee of the European Parliament has endorsed measures to promote zero-emission trucks and buses, aiming to revise road transport weights and dimensions rules. MEPs voted 26 to 11, with one abstention, in favour of increasing the maximum weight and length of zero-emission trucks by four tonnes. This adjustment aims to accommodate battery or hydrogen cell technology and provide additional loading capacity, incentivising the industry to embrace cleaner vehicles. To address road safety and infrastructure concerns, MEPs proposed an EU label system to identify oversized vehicles like mega trucks. Coupled with a web portal providing information on weight and length limits across EU countries, this aims to enhance road safety and awareness among users. Moreover, the committee stressed the importance of robust enforcement mechanisms, suggesting automatic control systems and digital tools like the Intelligent Access Policy to ensure compliance with EU rules. EP rapporteur Isabel García Muñoz emphasised the pivotal role of zero-emission vehicles in decarbonising the road transport sector. The draft position will now proceed to a plenary session for a comprehensive vote, with further deliberations expected in European elections in June.

UK Regulator Bans Airline Adverts Over ‘Misleading’ Environmental Claims

EU Implements Stricter Measures Against Greenwashing: New Regulations Set to Impact Business Practices

Stringent measures to combat greenwashing have been enacted in a significant development for businesses operating in the European Union. The recent adoption of rules governing environmental marketing claims by the Internal Market and Environment committees signals a new era of accountability and transparency in the marketplace. The directive, known as the green claims directive, is designed to complement the EU’s existing ban on misleading environmental advertising. It mandates that companies must provide substantiated evidence to support their environmental claims before using them for marketing purposes. This requirement will be enforced through a verification process conducted by accredited verifiers within a strict 30-day timeframe. Non-compliance with these regulations carries severe penalties, including exclusion from procurements, revenue loss, and fines amounting to at least 4% of annual turnover. Recognizing the diverse nature of environmental claims and products, MEPs have called for provisions to expedite the verification process for less complex claims and products. Moreover, considerations have been made for microenterprises and SMEs, with the latter granted an additional year before the rules come into effect for them. Of particular importance is the directive’s stance on carbon offsetting schemes. While the EU maintains its ban on green claims solely based on such schemes, companies can still reference offsetting if they have exhausted emissions reduction efforts and resort to offsetting for residual emissions. However, strict criteria for the certification of carbon credits must be met under the Carbon Removals Certification Framework. The directive also addresses comparative claims, setting guidelines for ads comparing different goods, including those from the same producer. Companies must demonstrate consistency in the methods used to compare relevant product aspects, with claims of product improvement restricted to recent data. Parliament’s rapporteur Andrus Ansip (Renew, EE) for the Internal Market Committee said: “Studies show that 50% of companies’ environmental claims are misleading. Consumers and entrepreneurs deserve transparency, legal clarity and equal conditions of competition. Traders are willing to pay for it, but not more than they gain from it. I am pleased that the solution proposed by the committees is balanced, brings more clarity to consumers and at the same time is, in many cases, less burdensome for businesses than the solution originally proposed by the Commission.”

Image: © European Union, 2024, Copyright Source: EC – Audiovisual Service