EU political groups are apathetic on transport issues


Having looked at the recently published manifestos of the European political groups, I realized surprisingly that the main groups, EPP and PES, do not even mention transport issues in their priorities for the next five years.

Isn’t it odd? Transport is still one of the main sources of emissions in Europe, and in the world really. According to the European Commission, transport is the only sector where GHG emissions are still rising, and yet this seems not to be a major concern for the European political groups. Only the Greens and the Liberals mention transport and only the Greens have priorities on greener and sustainable transport.

To be honest, this doesn’t appear to be in the top-10 issues for the European Commission either, which in January proposed to remove transport specific targets from the 2030 Policy Framework. And, now that I think about it, only very few Member States raised concerns over the lack of transport targets and the proposed end of the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) during the Energy and Environment Council meetings in March.

In my blog on “Full U-Turn on Decarbonizing European Transport”, ahead of the publication of the 2030 Package, I ironically said that it is good to know that the Commission thinks we can stop worrying about carbon emission in transport. Clearly, this isn’t true and the scientific body of the Commission, the JRC, just released a study which concludes that in every scenario considered the existing targets for 2020 (10% RED and 6% FQD) cannot be sustainably met without blending in more advanced biofuels, assuming they are available.

If the solution doesn’t come from the energy policy, it will come from the transport side, I thought! Maybe the Commission is going to issue another Communication on Transport – equivalent to the 2030 Climate and Energy Package – revamping the objective of the White Paper of 2011, or assessing the results achieved so far and raising awareness of what still needs to be done in the road to 2050. However, the White Paper was published only 3 years ago and I learned that a mid-term review will most likely only happen between 2015 and 2016. The highest levels of DG MOVE are not even thinking about a new White Paper yet.

Well, I guess the uncertainty over the biofuels policy cannot be cleared from the transport side either!

Meanwhile, biofuels still remain the most promising way to reduce transport emissions in the short and medium term. However, the ILUC discussion stopped in the last couple of years the developments (and the investments) of the biofuel industry and so far the EU hasn’t managed to provide legal certainty on how sustainable biofuels should be counted against the 2020 targets. Not only did a legal certainty not come from the energy policy, but the proposal put on the table in 2012 by DG CLIMA and DG Energy even risked (and still does) damaging also those sustainable biofuels with a very low-ILUC impact, only because they are food-based, such as Brazilian sugarcane ethanol.

As pointed out several times in my blogs, the Commission should work on a more balanced approach to the biofuels policy and the targets for sustainable transport should not be taken out from of the picture. For the first time, the candidates for the Commission Presidency from the main pan-European parties are debating publically on their priorities ahead of the elections, as a result of the changes introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, and this could have had the potential of raising the awareness of a wider audience than the usual ‘Brussels bubble’ on topics such as sustainable transport and biofuels. However, the candidates for the next Parliament – which is usually the institution that most promotes high standards of sustainability – missed the opportunity to be carriers of sustainable transport ideas and makes me wonder what will be the level of interest on these issues in the next 5 years.

Géraldine Kutas
Géraldine Kutas

A seasoned professional specializing in international trade policy, Géraldine Kutas leverages over a decade of experience to strengthen UNICA’s activities across the European Union, the United States and Asia. She has a deep expertise in biofuels and agricultural policies, coupled with extensive exposure to multilateral and regional trade negotiations in agriculture. Ms. Kutas is the author and co-author of several international publications on these topics.

Before joining UNICA, she was a researcher and a professor at the Groupe d’Economie Mondiale at Sciences Po(GEM), Paris, and coordinator of the European Biofuels Policy research programme (EBP). Ms. Kutas has also worked as a consultant at the Inter-American Bank of Development and for agro-business firms.

Ms. Kutas has a Ph.D. in International Economics from the Institut d’Etudes Poliques de Paris and a Master degree in Latin American Studies from Georgetown University, Washington DC.