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February 15, 2023

EU sets emissions targets for heavy-duty vehicles

European Commission sets 90 per cent emissions reduction goal for heavy-duty vehicles, citing health and economic opportunities.

The EU is “providing [clean energy] industries with long-term regulatory security,” while the US is “just giving [them] subsidies”, said European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans on February 14, in reference to the measures to support green industries created on both sides of the Atlantic.

Timmermans was speaking during a press conference at the European parliament in Strasbourg after the commission proposed targets for new heavy-duty vehicles from 2030 to reduce CO2 emissions from trucks and buses.

Heavy-duty vehicles are responsible for more than 6 per cent of total EU greenhouse gas emissions and more than 25 per cent of emissions from road transport, said the commission, explaining its decision to set targets to reduce the sector’s emissions by 45 per cent from 2030 compared with 2019, and by 65 per cent from 2035 and 90 per cent from 2040.

“We will eventually have to move to 100 per cent targets, but we can’t say when this will be possible with currently available technology,” Timmermans told journalists. He cited challenging situations, such as “very steep mountains and icy conditions” as still posing problems for today’s electric technologies.

The commission also proposed making all new city buses zero-emission as of 2030. This rapid shift will “show citizens that change to a clean and healthy future can happen quickly”, said Timmermans, suggesting people had become used to cleaner air during the Covid-19 lockdowns. The higher costs of buying electric buses could be countered if cities “pooled resources” and purchased new vehicles together, he added.

Timmermans was also clear that this change was equally an economic opportunity for Europe and that cleaner buses and trucks, running on electricity or hydrogen, should be made in Europe.

“We don’t want a situation as [it] happened with solar panels, where we invented them and then the production went to China,” said the commission vice-president. “We want the production to be in Europe.”

“There will be massive investment [in clean energy] in the US and we need to make sure it will not lead to deindustrialisation in Europe,” said Timmermans. The US Inflation Reduction Act was “very good” for the global reduction of emissions and was not an excuse for protectionism, he added, and insisted EU industry needed help to compete and bring down costs for citizens.

Timmermans said he was optimistic the EU now had “substantial funds” to invest in the energy transition, thanks, for example, to the recently agreed reform of the EU Emissions Trading System, which will require EU member states to spend revenue generated by the auctioning of ETS allowances on climate action.

Clear signals showing industry the direction of travel also came from the European parliament this week, said Timmermans, which backed plans to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in the EU by 2035. MEPs likewise approved the REPowerEU package aimed at speeding up the EU’s energy transition, increasing its energy savings measures and diversifying its energy imports to reduce reliance on Russia.

A service from the Financial Times