Covered in this week’s Green Mobility Policy Briefing: Europe uses cost-of-living crisis to encourage greater public transport use; European Parliament’s ENVI Committee endorse reforms to the EU Emissions Trading Scheme; an e-bike loan scheme launches in UK Communities; and England’s National Bus Strategy reforms come under scrutiny.
Europe uses the cost-of-living crisis to encourage greater public transport use. To tackle soaring energy prices catalysed by Russia’s war in Ukraine, Germany has announced that from June until September, all public transport will cost just €9 per month. According to German Transport Minister, Volker Wissing, the ‘9 for 90’ scheme is critical component of the country’s strategy to wean itself “off Russian energy” and bring it “closer to climate neutrality”. The plans are symbolic of a new continent-wide policy trend, to promote sustainable transport in the face of mounting pressure on household finances. Ireland has slashed public transport fares for the first time in almost 75 years. Italy has introduced a one-time €60 public transport bonus for all students and workers earning less than €35,000 per annum. Whilst the DfT announced last month, that rail tickets will be discounted by 50% until May 27th, in the UK’s biggest ever rail sale. However, the policy wave has attracted criticism for its short-termism. Italy’s Prime Minister admitted that the nation’s policy was “a temporary solution”, failing to provide a solution should the cost-of-living crisis continue. The concern of German state governors reflects this. Although all 16 states support the ‘9 for 90’ scheme in principle, they have expressed fears that the plans cost will lead to Autumn price hikes. Despite this, climate activists generally consider these measures a step in the right direction. It remains to be seen whether the measures provide enough incentive to make the switch to public transport permanent when the discounts are dropped. – By Ed Holt
European Parliament’s key ENVI Committee endorse EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) reform. In Tuesday’s vote, the Committee adopted proposals to reform the EU ETS. The proposals, set for adoption during the European Parliament’s plenary session in June, follow calls by MEPs for urgent action to be taken to tackle aviation emissions. As the industry gradually recovers from the pandemic, fears over increasing global aviation emissions have been rekindled. This is inconsistent with the EU’s “Fit for 55” package, which targets at least a 55% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, thus bringing aviation in line with the targets set by the Paris Agreement. In an unprecedented overhaul of the EU’s carbon market, MEPs propose an expansion to the EU ETS, to cover all flights departing from airports located within the European Economic Area (EEA), not just inter-EEA flights as at present. The move constitutes a reversion to the original legislation adopted in 2008, before its scope was limited in 2016 in favour of supporting the development of the ICAO’s global measure. Also included in the MEPs proposal are plans to accelerate the ending of free allocations for the most efficient airline operators, approximately five hundred of whom currently receive emissions allowances due to the scheme. Finally, the MEPs acknowledge that the aviation industry cannot “bear the whole burden” of achieving climate goals. Therefore, it is proposed that 75% of the revenues generated from allowance auctions should directly support innovation and new technologies, through the Climate Innovation Fund. – By Sam Phelps
A scheme offering free e-bike loans launches in 5 pilot areas, starting in Greater Manchester. Cycling UK’s pioneering ‘cycling made e-asy’ scheme, which targets reluctant cyclists, will receive up to £8m in investment from the UK DfT up to 2023. With the help of commercial partners, the programme aims to offer “free and easy” loans of e-bikes, catering for various participant needs, to communities across the UK. The programme is to be delivered as part of the Prime Minister’s ‘Cycling and Walking plan’, which envisions that half of all journeys in towns and cities will be cycled or walked by 2030. According to Cycling UK, only 2.8% of trips in England were taken by bicycle in 2020. However, electric bikes are growing in popularity, with UK e-bike imports increasing 57% in January 2021 on the previous year, providing optimism that e-bikes are fast becoming the “natural first choice” for many journeys. Should the programme prove successful in Greater Manchester, it will be implemented in four further locations across England, with Leicester, Luton, Hull, and Sheffield all targeted.– By Georgia King
Scrutinising England’s National Bus Strategy reforms. In March, the UK Government published its vision for bus services outside of London. The main aim of the strategy is to improve quality of bus services, bringing them closer to London standards, and thereby increase the number of bus journeys taken, which have dropped considerably following the pandemic. A recent research briefing has dissected the government’s strategy. It suggests that whilst plans to provide greener and more accessible bus services, cheaper fares, and more bus lanes, are generally positive, the strategy may be insufficient to reverse the long-term decline of bus travel. Stagecoach have suggested that the strategy may need to be supplemented by measures which disincentivise driving, such as congestion charges and parking restrictions. Further, reforms to the National Bus Strategy aim to ensure greater integration with the Government’s Net Zero strategy, by reducing traffic congestion and converting diesel buses to zero emission alternatives. The UK Government has so far provided funding for 2,000 zero-emission buses, half of their goal. However, questions remain over which technologies to use in certain circumstances, whilst operators have also noted that financial incentives still mean diesel buses are the preferable choice. Clearly, if a concerted effort to level-up bus services outside of London is to be made, the National Bus strategy must be reformed further. However, following the Government refuting the Confederation of Passenger Transport’s suggestion in January, that over £10bn would be needed to deliver transport authorities’ bus service improvement plans, the prioritisation of this is questionable. – By Kloudia Sakowski