EU plans to introduce new vehicle emissions targets for 2040

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Earlier this week, the European Commission proposed ambitious new CO2 emissions targets for new heavy-duty vehicles from 2030 onwards as part of the European Green Deal. These targets will help to reduce CO2 emissions in the transport sector across the continent, although it will not be a commitment to being fully carbon neutral.

Trucks, city buses, and long-distance buses are responsible for over six percent of total EU greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and more than 25 percent of GHG emissions from road transport.

These strengthened emissions standards would ensure that this segment of the road transport sector contributes to the shift to zero-emissions mobility and the EU’s climate and zero pollution objectives.

As part of these new proposals, there will be a 45 percent reduction in emissions from 2030, and a 65 percent reduction from 2035 before finally reaching the 90 percent target five years later.

To stimulate faster deployment of zero-emission buses in cities, the Commission also proposes to make all new city buses zero-emission as of 2030.

Emissions in the heavy-duty vehicle sector have been increasing year-on-year since 2014 with the exception of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sandra Roling, Director of Transport at the Climate Group, reacted to the announcement, saying the EU should do more to address the issues.

She said: “Today’s European Commission proposal to decarbonise heavy road transport by mandating a 90 percent CO2 reduction by 2040 is disappointing and doesn’t go far enough. 

“Together with EV100+ member companies, we have called for a full 100 percent CO2 reduction in Europe’s heaviest, most polluting vehicles by 2035, and today’s proposal falls well short of this. 

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“Without a full phase-out, the announcement today leaves needless uncertainty.”

The vast majority of heavy-duty vehicles in the EU fleet (99 percent) currently run on internal combustion engines, fuelled largely by imported fossil fuels such as diesel. 

This adds to the EU’s energy dependency and current volatility of the energy market.

The Commission also proposed enormous changes to its support for cleaner vehicles via a suitable charging network.

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On major highways, it would include an electric charging station every 60 kilometres and a hydrogen refuelling point every 150 kilometres.

Sandra Roling added: “In addition, the interim targets are too low, and start too late. We need to set a clear pace from the outset to create the market dynamics that achieve the target.

“The technology is ready, but now needs to be scaled at speed, supported by clear targets and robust policy frameworks. 

“EV100+ members are ready to lead and are fully committed to completing the decarbonisation of their heavy-duty fleets internationally by no later than 2040 – showing much more ambitious targets are possible than the Commission has set today. 

“Not using the opportunity to match their ambition will ultimately damage the competitiveness of European industries, the health of its people and jeopardise our climate goals.

 “We urge the European Parliament and Council to be bolder and strengthen the proposal with a full petrol and diesel phase out date and ambitious, early interim targets in the further process. 

“That would provide a stronger signal to businesses across the EU to invest in rapidly decarbonising the heaviest, most polluting vehicles on the EU’s roads, supporting its climate targets as well as the long-term competitiveness of its industry.”

The Commission is working intensively with the co-legislators to finalise the negotiations on these proposals.

Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, said that all parts of the transport sector have to actively contribute to the changes.

He said: “In 2050, nearly all of the vehicles on our roads have to be zero-emission. Our Climate Law requires it, our cities demand it, and our manufacturers are gearing up for it. 

“We are making sure that new trucks are becoming less polluting and that more buses with zero emissions will ride through our cities.”

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