Town Planning

The European Commission Greening transport Package : Green Mobility on the move !

Mobility is key to our quality of life and is vital for the EU’s competitiveness.

But mobility also imposes cost on society due to impacts it causes. Transport emissions threaten our health, negatively affect our local environmental quality and make a significant and growing contribution to climate change. In its 2006 review (COM(2006) 314) of the 2001 White Paper, the Commission pointed to the need to use a broad range of policy tools, ranging from economic instruments and regulatory measures to infrastructure investment and new technologies in order to achieve sustainable mobility.

“Getting to prices right” is essential, now declares the Commission in a new package, launched on 8 july 2008 to make transport greener and more sustainable. Transport users already pay a significant amount, but the price they pay often bears little connection to the real costs on society of their choices. Internalizing the external costs (for example, for congestion charging, allowing this to reflect the location and time of day), economic instruments (taxes, charges or emission trading schemes) can encourage transport users to switch to cleaner vehicles or modes (including walking and cycling), to use less congested infrastructure or to travel at different times. As such they represent an effective way to make mobility sustainable. The Commission does nothing but applying to transport the principles already in practice in the areas of other utilities, such as water and waste, and for the same motives.

The Commission’s strategy is to act in a way that is tailor-made to each impact and transport mode, taking into account the fact that the EU has already started work in this area. As such the EU rules on energy taxation and the Commission’s proposals to include the aviation sector in the EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS) are significant first steps in the strategy. The second type is a set of complementary measures comprising regulatory instruments, infrastructure measures and research and development measures.

The Communication “Greening Transport” begins by summarizing the existing and proposed EU measures in the field of sustainable transport. These measures are and will continue to be complementary to action taken by Member States, which are a vital element in achieving sustainable mobility. The 8 july 2008 package breaks down into three other documents : two of them describe the two accompanying initiatives on internalizing the external costs of transport – an overall strategy and a proposal to revise the directive on heavy goods vehicle charging for infrastructure use. Finally a document on reducing rail noise.

Internalising the external costs of transport

The framework for estimating the external costs of transport is based upon the results of Commission-financed work to review best practices, suggest a methodology and produce a handbook containing reference values that can be used for external costs. The communication provides guidance on how to use these values for external costs.

The second element of the communication is a strategy that sets out how external costs can be internalized in all modes of transport.

The EU has already started to internalize these external costs through the aforementioned rules on motor fuel taxation, as well as with the Commission’s proposals to include the aviation sector in the EU’s ETS and to incorporate a CO² component in registration and annual circulation taxes for cars.
In the road sector the strategy launches immediate action to allow more effective and efficient internalization with the proposal on infrastructure charging for heavy goods vehicles. Private transport is not covered because of the principle of subsidiarity, but the Commission encourages Member States to implement a charging system for all road transport and not just heavy goods vehicles as this would create incentives for all road users to change their behavior, thereby increasing the significant positive impacts.

The strategy also sets out subsequent steps in other modes. For inland waterways it announces the internalization of all external costs in the sector.

For maritime transport, the strategy will be developed in line with the new European Integrated Maritime Policy (COM (2007) 575. This policy includes several proposals improving the sustainability (greening) of maritime transport. For more details see section 4 of the Greening Transport Inventory Commission Staff Working Document SEC (2008) 2206).

At the same time the strategy announces a cross-cutting internalization measure for later in 2008: the revision of the Energy Taxation Directive.

Road charging

Road transport accounts for the majority of external costs from transport so getting the prices right in this area is particularly urgent. Revising the heavy goods vehicles charging directive to encourage Member States to implement differentiated charging systems will improve the efficiency and environmental performance of road freight transport, something that is particularly important given its significant contribution to traffic and emissions.

At present the directive effectively stops Member States from making the most effective use of their tolling systems or the systems they are developing. Charges cannot currently be calculated and varied on the basis of external costs. This means that Member States cannot put in place sufficient incentives for operators to modernize their fleet with cleaner vehicles and to adapt their route planning and logistics to make them more sustainable.

The proposal would change this by giving Member States a framework to better vary charges according to the local pollution (air and noise) (costs for CO² will be tackled through fuel taxes as part of an envisaged review of the Energy Taxation Directive) and congestion that the particular vehicle causes at the time it is used. By reducing congestion it will also contribute significantly to reducing CO² emissions.

To ensure that the tolls are both proportionate to the actual environmental damage and congestion caused and the internal market continues to work properly the Commission is proposing that a common and transparent method is used for calculating external costs. The directive would also insist that any revenues from the scheme are earmarked for reducing the environmental impacts of transport and congestion (for example, alternative infrastructure, traffic management and research) and that, after a transition period, charges are levied using electronic systems.

Complementary measures

As started above, both action to get the prices right and complementary action are needed to tackle the negative effects of transport. This is all the more so because, as the strategy part of the Communication on internalization underlines, prices for some products and services, such as transport, may not lead to a change in behavior (i.e. demand is rather inelastic). As a result complementary measures are essential. The Commission is therefore presenting, at the same time as this communication, a further communication to reduce rail noise from existing wagons and will, over the next 18 months, take additional steps focused on different modes and impacts.

For aviation, it will propose legislation on emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from aviation, while in the road sector, the Commission will, by the end of 2008, propose reducing the CO² emissions from new vans, a system for tyre labeling and revising the existing car labeling directive.

The Commission announces that it might take further action to limit noise at EU airports by revising the existing directive on aircraft noise.

This will be accompanied by the Commission making funding available under the Trans-European Network program for actions on electronic toll systems have been implemented together by at least two Members States. The Commission will also clarify to what extent and under which conditions interoperable on-board tolling equipment may be included.

Eric Gillet