Policy brief

Addressing Europe’s failure to clean up the transport sector

The European Union has the long-term vision to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95 percent by 2050 compared to 1990 and it adopted in 2014 a

Publishing date
09 April 2018

The issue

Under the Paris Agreement, the European Union has committed to cut its greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. Between 1990 and 2015, emissions decreased significantly in all sectors with the exception of transport, which has seen a 20 percent increase. Transport is thus becoming a key obstacle to EU decarbonisation and more aggressive policies are needed to decarbonise this sector. A particular focus should be decarbonisation of road transport because it is responsible for more than 70 percent of overall transport emissions. Decarbonising road transport would also improve air quality in cities, which remains a fundamental challenge for better public health in Europe.

Policy challenge

So far, national and EU policies have failed to foster road transport decarbonisation. However, this trend can be reversed by adopting a new EU post-2020 strategy with three main components. First, the EU should foster political momentum and encourage countries and cities to adopt plans to ban all diesel and petrol vehicles by 2030-2040. This would be a strong signal to the automotive industry to invest more strongly in clean vehicles, and to citizens to adopt more sustainable transport modes. The EU should provide support to countries and cities that take this route though a new EU Clean Transport Fund. Second, the EU should promote a Europe-wide discussion about the future of transport taxation. Third, the EU should focus its transport-related research and innovation funding on supporting new clean technologies that are not yet viable, but are potentially key to ensure deep decarbonisation of road transport in the longer term.

About the authors

  • Georg Zachmann

    Georg Zachmann is a Senior Fellow at Bruegel, where he has worked since 2009 on energy and climate policy. His work focuses on regional and distributional impacts of decarbonisation, the analysis and design of carbon, gas and electricity markets, and EU energy and climate policies. Previously, he worked at the German Ministry of Finance, the German Institute for Economic Research in Berlin, the energy think tank LARSEN in Paris, and the policy consultancy Berlin Economics.

  • Simone Tagliapietra

    Simone Tagliapietra is a Senior fellow at Bruegel. He is also Adjunct professor of Energy, Climate and Environmental Policy at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore and at The Johns Hopkins University - School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) Europe.

    His research focuses on the European Union climate and energy policy and on the political economy of global decarbonisation. With a record of numerous policy and scientific publications, he is the author of Global Energy Fundamentals (Cambridge University Press, 2020), L’Energia del Mondo (Il Mulino, 2020) and Energy Relations in the Euro-Mediterranean (Palgrave, 2017).

    His columns and policy work are published and cited in leading international media such as the Financial Times, The New York Times, The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, Le Monde, Die Zeit, Corriere della Sera, Il Sole 24 Ore and others.

    Simone holds a PhD in Institutions and Policies from Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore. Born in the Dolomites in 1988, he speaks Italian, English and French.

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Report

How it can be done

Rüdiger Bachmann, David Baqaee, Christian Bayer, Moritz Kuhn, Andreas Löschel, Ben McWilliams, Benjamin Moll, Andreas Peichl, Karen Pittel, Moritz Schularick and Georg Zachmann