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EPRS: Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy

On 20 January 2021, the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) published a briefing on the European Commission's Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy. The document outlines the strategy, explains the reactions of some stakeholders and gives an outlook on the next steps. On 9 December 2020, the Commission presented the Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy, which sets out the planned steps to transform the EU transport system in line with the ambitions of the European Green Deal and the objectives of the EU Digital Strategy. The mobility strategy is complemented by an action plan listing 82 initiatives in ten key fields of action ("flagships") with concrete measures to be adopted over the next four years. The Commission has therefore proposed a strategy that outlines how it intends to transform the EU transport sector and bring it in line with the European Green Deal by making it green, digital and resilient. By 2050, the Commission expects almost all cars, vans, buses and new trucks in the EU to be zero-emission, rail freight to double and high-speed transport to triple, while the multimodal Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) should be fully operational, ensuring high-speed connections. The Commission aims to achieve this by strengthening existing rules, proposing new legislation and providing support measures and guidance.

In road transport, the Commission wants to further tighten CO2 emission standards for cars

and vans as well as for trucks and buses. It intends to propose stricter air pollutant emission standards (Euro 7) for internal combustion engine vehicles, but without setting an end date for the sale of internal combustion engine cars in Europe. It intends to revise the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive and promote the availability of electricity and hydrogen by setting up more charging stations for vehicles. Measures to boost demand for zero-emission vehicles include not only carbon pricing, taxation, road pricing and changes to rules on weights and dimensions, but also measures to support the introduction of these vehicles into corporate and urban fleets.

While transport stakeholders have welcomed parts of the strategy as steps in the right direction, concerns have been raised about the high ambitions of the text and the lack of concrete elements. European car manufacturers (ACEA) warned that the target of having 30 million zero-emission cars on EU roads by 2030 is far from today's reality and is not accompanied by the ambition to build sufficient charging infrastructure. The road transport industry (IRU) warned that the strategy, based on an approach that only measures tailpipe emissions, will not achieve carbon neutrality. It also risks destroying bus transport, which they see as by far the greenest and most inclusive form of transport. In their view, the policy must be based on the well-to-wheel principle and all fuel alternatives to diesel will be needed in the coming decades.

The Commission is due to start proposing the planned measures in 2021. It remains to be seen to what extent, with what changes and how quickly they will be adopted and then implemented by EU member states and shape the transport transformation for years to come.


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