Green Mobility Policy Briefing – May 13 2022

Covered in this week’s Green Mobility Policy Briefing: Plans to implement urban air mobility infrastructure in Rio de Janeiro develop further; EU lawmakers face intense lobbying over emissions targets; Biden Administration allocate $3bn towards US battery supply chain; the Belgian government announce their long-term rail vision; and UK government’s net-zero strategy attracts criticism.

Eve publishes Concept of Operations (CONOPS) for urban air mobility in Rio de Janeiro. The news, which is the latest mark of the rapid progress being made in the development of Urban Air Mobility (UAM) infrastructure, follows a CONOPS published in March, detailing the integration of Urban Air Mobility solutions in the UK. The document, for which research commenced in mid-2021, was developed in cooperation with eleven strategic partners and government entities, including Brazil’s Civil Aviation Agency. Eve hopes that the CONOPS will encourage these stakeholders to “evolve together” to stimulate continued investment and the integration of the UAM project in Rio de Janeiro. Brazil is a target region for Eve, who hopes to certify their eVTOL aircraft with Brazil’s National Civil Aviation Authority by 2025. The document includes impact analyses of the UAM ecosystem, discussion groups involving the project’s pillars for development, and the results of a month-long flight operation conducted in November 2021. The operation, which involved community participation, simulated a UAM ecosystem between the Barra de Tijuca neighbourhood and RIOgaleõ International Airport, using a helicopter in place of an eVTOL aircraft. According to Luiz Mauad, Vice-President of services and fleet operations at Eve, the CONOPS will be crucial in determining a blueprint for the development of UAM systems worldwide; suggesting that it provides information about how the UAM ecosystem can “be adapted, but also developed with solutions to ensure a safe and sustainable expansion”. – By Sam Phelps

Lawmakers back EU-wide ban on new fossil fuel cars from 2035, despite strong lobbying. The European Parliament’s Environment Committee voted on May 11th to uphold the proposed ban. However, after much debate, the committee did not back the proposal of some lawmakers to increase the ambition of the Commission’s 2030 CO2 emissions targets for cars and vans. The proposals aimed to increase the existing 55% emissions cut target to 70% by 2030, thus smoothing the transition to zero emissions by 2035. Alongside this, the Committee rejected a handful of other ambitious strategies, including a provision that would enable the use of e-fuels. These decisions attracted criticism, in particular from clean mobility NGO Transport & Environment, who argue that opting against these proposals will harm the switch to zero-emission vehicles. Alex Keynes, clean vehicle manager at Transport & Environment, suggests that the “electric vehicle boom will falter for the next 10 years unless lawmakers step in with an interim [emissions] target in 2027 and a more ambitious goal in 2030.” Such resistance to tougher emissions targets is the latest indication of the challenges facing lawmakers as they attempt to navigate a successful transition towards zero transport emissions. – By Georgia King 

Joe Biden’s US Administration allocates $3bn to develop the battery supply chain. In a recent visit to Detroit, US Secretary of Energy, Jennifer M. Granholm, announced two new funding opportunities authorised by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The funds, totalling $3.16bn, will support growing electric vehicle and energy storage demands by increasing domestic battery manufacturing and critical mineral recycling, whilst strengthening domestic supply chains. It is hoped that by establishing domestic manufacturers in global advanced battery markets, which are forecast to grow rapidly over the next decade, US exposure to increasingly volatile geopolitics and surging commodity prices, the inflationary effects of which are currently escalating, will be reduced. Steven Croley, General Counsel for Ford Motor Co., welcomed the announcement, suggesting that investments like this provide the opportunity to “own this technology here in the US”. The investment represents a key component of the Biden Administration’s clean energy strategy. The White House wants electric vehicles to account for half of vehicles sold in the US by 2030, already investing $7.5bn in a national EV charging network and $5bn in electric transit buses. – By Sam Phelps

Belgian government announce Railway Vision 2040. Following a proposal from the Minister of Mobility, Georges Gilkinet, the Council of Ministers have approved a draft framework for railway policy for the next 20 years. The Railway Vision 2040 seeks to create the conditions for a “real modal shift”, with railways as the foundation of more sustainable mobility, whilst also regarded as a lever to tackle the mounting challenges of climate change. To ensure this becomes a reality, Minister Gilkinet has set ambitious modal share targets to be achieved by 2040. Rail is tasked with achieving a 15% modal share of passenger transport, up from 8% today, whilst the framework targets a 20% share in freight, increasing from 12%. The roadmap insists that the Belgian railway system, in cooperation with the government, will redevelop the railway system, increasing its attractiveness, both through a greater quality of the service and the establishment of more extensive links to other European capitals. Environmental groups have welcomed the announcement, with Jolan Rijmenams of Bond Beter Leefmilieu, an environmental consultancy, suggesting that the long-term roadmap will finally put railways “on the map as a full-fledged alternative to cars and trucks in Belgium”. – By Kloudia Sakowski

The Committee of Public Accounts criticises the UK government’s net-zero strategy. The report, published on March 2nd, highlighted the omission of answers to key questions regarding the funding of the transition to net-zero in government plans. This is despite the government committing more than £25bn in funding up to 2024-25, consequently raising concerns over how much the government’s current net zero strategy will cost British households, consumers, and businesses. The Committee also cautioned that efforts to encourage consumers to buy into net-zero need to be furthered, with the current set of disconnected initiatives doing little to bring about the rapid changes to consumer behaviour that are urgently required. The report also noted the criticism levelled at the government’s net-zero strategy by environmental groups. Client Earth, Friends of the Earth and the Good Law Project question whether the strategy upholds section 13 and 14 of the 2008 Climate Change Act. The lack of policy impact assessments provides no assurance that the proposed policies will work successfully, whilst also providing no clarity over whether fossil fuels will be put to an end. – By Shyamala Patel.

Related: the French Election Special: What are Macron and Le Pen’s Sustainable Transport Policies? 

Sam is our new Green Mobility Policy Editor. Sam, an Economics graduate from the University of Leeds, is particularly interested in exploring the opportunities and challenges facing the global drive towards net-zero and how transportation policy developments are crucial to this goal.