The EU Council of Environment Ministers has agreed to set a target of 15% reduction in CO2E from trucks by 2030, rather than the earlier draft goal of 30% or accept an even more ambitious target proposed by the European Parliament
The Council has also given itself further "wriggle room" by safeguarding the ability to change the 15% - 2030 target in the 2022 revision. The International Road Transport Union (IRU) has welcomed this decision, on the basis that setting immutable targets before knowing which [or any!] technologies will be commercially available in time is unrealistic.
"Setting the target before knowing which technologies can meet this ambition is unrealistic," said the IRU. "In addition, the 30% currently proposed for 2030 would only be reachable by using a Well-to-Wheel (WTW) approach that takes into account the role of advanced renewable and synthetic liquid and gaseous fuels used in internal combustion engines. IRU calls on policy makers to ensure that moving to this methodology will be assessed in the 2022 revision."
According to the IRU, based on current technology projection, meeting a 35% reduction, as proposed by the European Parliament for 2030, would require a wide-scale shift to electrification, but this will not be market-ready for long-haul operations. Therefore, meeting such a target, or an eventual benchmark for the post-2025 timeline, could see a shift of investment to smaller and less efficient vehicles ultimately creating greater congestion and more CO2 emissions.
Matthias Maedge, who leads IRU’s work in the EU, said: “Decision makers must bear in mind that given the tight margins facing the sector, the pace of decarbonisation will not be determined by the availability of technology, but by the purchasing power of transport operators, which may prevent them from investing in some of these new technologies.
"CNG, LNG and hydrogen will play an important role in the future, while the energy storage capacity, weight and the price of batteries remain an obstacle for commercial road transport. Therefore standards must ultimately be based on technological feasibility but also on commercial viability.”
The counterargument to this is that, by relaxing the targets, the EU is weakening the impetus for change and the incentive to invest in low carbon transport technologies.
In any event, the IRU’s view is mirrored in the off-road diesel-powered mobile plant world, including in the ports industry.