Yesterday the European Commission presented its transport initiatives for the coming four years as part of longer terms plans to decarbonise the sector.
Under new goals set by Brussels, by 2030 zero-emission marine vessels will be market-ready with ports in a position to supply the requisite new fuel, and carbon pricing in place to ensure there is a strong uptake of these new vessels. The commission anticipates 30m zero-emission cars to be on the continent’s roads by 2030 and for zero-emission large aircraft to be commercially viable five years later.
The strategy paper also suggested that Europe might end its tax exemption for bunker fuels and aviation fuel as early as next year.
“The taxation of energy content for various fuels should be better aligned, and the uptake of sustainable transport fuels better incentivised,” the report maintained.
The commission said shipping and aviation ought to be given “priority access to additional renewable and low-carbon liquid and gaseous fuels, since there is a lack of suitable alternative powertrains in the short term”.
On the future of shipping fuels, the staff working document states: “Liquid biofuels would represent 39-40% of the fuel mix by 2050, while e-liquids would contribution (sic) an additional 19-20%. Low carbon gases (bio-LNG and e-gas) are projected to represent 20 to 22% of the fuel mix and hydrogen another 7-8%.”
Such a heavy focus on biofuels has drawn criticism in certain quarters.
William Todts, executive director at NGO Transport & Environment, commented: “It’s great that the EU is getting serious about aviation and shipping’s climate problem, but biofuels are not the solution. Europe’s last biofuels adventure was a fiasco causing deforestation worldwide. We now have a great alternative in renewable hydrogen fuels which aren’t just cleaner, but also represent a big industrial opportunity.”
Frans Timmermans, executive vice-president for the EU’s European Green Deal, said yesterday: “To reach our climate targets, emissions from the transport sector must get on a clear downward trend. Today’s strategy will shift the way people and goods move across Europe and make it easy to combine different modes of transport in a single journey. We’ve set ambitious targets for the entire transport system to ensure a sustainable, smart, and resilient return from the Covid-19 crisis.”
Commenting on yesterday’s strategy paper, Martin Dorsman, secretary-general of European Community Shipowners’ Associations, said this morning: “The European shipowners need regulatory coherence and long-term certainty to be able to make the necessary green and digital investments and remain competitive globally. The strategy rightly recognises that shipping has greater decarbonisation challenges compared to other sectors, due to current lack of market ready zero-emission technologies, required investments and international competition. In this regard, a consistent legislative framework also addressing the responsibilities of fuel suppliers as well as infrastructure needs is necessary.”
Europe is pressing ahead with plans to include shipping in its carbon trading scheme despite growing opposition, especially from Asian countries.
Leading shipping lines such as Maersk have vowed to order zero-emission ships by the end of this decade as pressure builds on the industry — from both clients and end consumers – to slash its carbon footprint.