Transport groups opposed to EC “greening” package
Transport groups opposed to EC “greening” package
A new European Commission initiative designed to reduce transport’s environmental impact has met with immediate hostility from industry groups representing the continent’s freight forwarders, shippers, and road transport providers.
The EC’s “Greening Transport” package was introduced on Tuesday by Antonio Tajani, new EC vice president responsible for transport.
Building on existing European Union measures and proposals, such as those on fuel taxation and including aviation in the EU’s Emissions Trading System, the package contains new measures to enable member states to introduce “green” road tolls for trucks and a communication to reduce noise from rail freight by 50 percent. It is accompanied by a common framework for estimating external costs in the EU including climate change, local pollution, noise and congestion.
“This package is about tackling pollution and climate change, and making sure the polluter and not the taxpayer pays for environmental damage,” Tajani said.
“Among the results will be greener transport, fewer emissions, up to 8 percent less fuel consumption by lorries and fewer hold-ups for all road users. Delays, unnecessary emissions and soaring costs are bad for transport companies, for their clients and for all of us. A more efficient and sustainable transport system will in the long run be a more user-friendly and cheaper transport system,” he said.
The proposal to revise the directive on the charging of heavy goods vehicle for infrastructure use (the so-called Eurovignette Directive) seeks to establish a framework for member states to calculate and vary tolls according to the air and noise pollution from traffic emissions and peak-hour congestion levels.
“This will encourage freight transport operators to buy cleaner vehicles and improve their logistics and route planning,” the EC said in a release.
The EC added that the tolls will have to be collected using electronic systems with any revenue going towards projects that will alleviate the negative impacts of transport, such as research and development on cleaner and more energy efficient vehicles.
The revision of the Eurovignette Directive will now go forward to the European Parliament and the council for debate and adoption under the co-decision procedure. Both the Parliament and the council had previously asked the EC to bring forward this measure, and the EC said it is hopeful that it will be ready to take effect before 2011.
In a joint response to the package, the European freight forwarders' association (CLECAT), the European Shippers' Council (ESC) and the International Road Transport Union (IRU), said the policy “falls disappointingly short of innovative policy thinking” and will merely make road transport and subsequently the goods transported more expensive with little positive environmental benefit.
“Road transport is the only practical and viable mode of transporting goods to their end destination; in the majority of cases, reliable and realistic alternatives do not exist, even when alternatives are technically possible. Despite price pressures, the demand for road freight services will increase further in the coming decades. Experience suggests that when road freight costs go up, other modes will follow suit, thus neutralizing any potential cost 'advantage' they may otherwise have gained, fuelling inflation at a time when we are already experiencing increased costs and declining markets,” the trio said in a joint statement.
“The main issue is that the EC wishes to address congestion in order to tackle local pollution (air and noise) and also emissions of greenhouse gasses such as CO2 — and yet their hands are being tied by members states — such that they can only suggest rather than mandate that the internalizing of such costs should be extended to the private vehicle sector — the part of road transport that contributes the lion share of CO2, congestion and noise impacts on society! How ironic is that?” said ESC Secretary General Nicolette van der Jagt.
Bertil Dahlin, president of the IRU’s EU Goods Transport Liaison Committee, added: “We recognize that transport like any human activity causes externalities, which we all have a shared responsibility to mitigate now and in the future. As a matter of fact, the road transport industry has taken effective “at source” technical measures and adopted operational practices that have, for instance, reduced the fuel consumption of commercial vehicles by 36 percent since 1970 and toxic emissions by 97 percent. The commission should have introduced a sound and objective cost-benefit analysis based on the Cheapest Cost Avoider principle as a prerequisite for internalizing external costs, which would ensure that externalities would be reduced at source with a truly sustainable outcome.”
Marco Sorgetti, director general of CLECAT, said: “We cannot cut back on demand for road transport, as there are no realistic alternatives. Today's proposals from the commission, in spite of their optimistic business-as-usual tone, require considerable caution: they stem from observations carried out in a different economic climate. Today, with higher logistics costs, the risk of stagflation and economic decline, the last thing we need is an additional spin, when the wheel is turning too fast already.”
CLECAT, ESC and the IRU repeated their call to the EC to apply the internalization of external costs simultaneously across all transport modes.
“Until there is equal and neutral treatment in all modes, with equivalent measures (in proportion to the externalities of each mode), we see no justification for the urgency to place additional charges on road freight with a rushed revision of the Eurovignette directive.”
The full package is available at: http://ec.europa.eu/transport/greening/index_en.htm. ' Simon Heaney