“Fit for 55”: diplomats prepare for negotiations on transport legislation

“Fit for 55”: diplomats prepare for negotiations on transport legislation

With the positions on the European “Fit for 55” legislation for climate action now largely defined, the European Parliament and the Council will begin negotiations on the legislative package in the coming months. The results of this interinstitutional stand-off will shape EU transport policy for decades to come.

In this article, EURACTIV examines the most important elements of the upcoming discussions for the aviation, maritime transport and road transport sectors: What are the proposals? Where are the different actors at? What should be the friction points?

Aviation

While clean aircraft powered by electricity and hydrogen remain a distant goal, the short-term solution to reduce aircraft emissions is the deployment of sustainable aviation fuels (CAD).

As part of the “ReFuelEU Aviation” initiative, all aircraft refueling at EU airports will be required to use a specified percentage of CAD mixed with kerosene. This percentage will increase approximately every five years until 2050.

Parliament and the Council have agreed on their position on this issue, with negotiations due to start in September.

Discussions between the institutions should focus on two questions: what percentage of CAD would it be realistic to ask for? What exactly constitutes a CAD?

While Parliament wants 85% of kerosene to be made up of CAD by 2050, the Council is sticking to the Commission’s initial proposal, namely a target of 63%. Opinions also differ on the raw materials for advanced biofuels and those produced from waste that should be given the green light to meet fuel demand while ensuring sustainability.

Discussions on the emissions trading system (ETS), which sets the price of carbon, will also be closely followed. Parliament wants all flights from the EU to be subject to the ETS, not just inter-EU flights as is currently the case. He also wants the free permits granted to airlines to reduce their ETS-related costs to be abolished by 2025.

At the same time, the bloc’s member states want flights to third countries to be covered by the United Nations CORSIA program, a carbon offset and reduction system for International aviation, which is much less strict than the European carbon market. They also set 2027 as the date for phasing out free permits from the carbon market.

Maritime

The European Union’s efforts to decarbonize the maritime transport sector are focused on “FuelEU Maritime”, the sister legislation to the kerosene law « green » from the aviation sector.

Rather than imposing specific green fuels, the “FuelEU Maritime” initiative sets progressive targets to reduce the intensity of greenhouse gases contained in the fuel used on board ships.

According to its critics, the technology-neutral approach proposed by the European Commission will lead ship operators to choose the cheapest fuels to reduce emissions, namely liquefied natural gas (LNG) and biofuels, which environmental NGOs are opposed to.

Instead, environmental activists want lawmakers to encourage the adoption of green hydrogen and ammonia through the inclusion of mandatory multipliers and subgoals.

However, some industry players have refused to make the purchase of synthetic fuels mandatory, since the current low supply makes these fuels extremely expensive. The large-scale deployment of alternative fuels will also require EU ports to undertake major infrastructure changes.

Although the Member States decided on their position on the dossier at the beginning of June (largely agreeing with the Commission’s proposal), the European Parliament was slower to agree.

A lack of unity between the political groups led to the postponement of the vote of the Transport Committee to the end of September. The World Shipping Council, the leading trade association for the shipping industry, condemned the delay, saying the sector needs clarity to meet climate targets.

Road transport

Perhaps the most important obstacle of the “Fit for 55” initiative has been overcome in the road transport sector: Parliament and the Council have indeed agreed to end the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2035.

The decision to end the internal combustion engine is almost a foregone conclusion, much to the surprise of observers, who expected that countries with a significant automotive industry would reject the 2035 deadline.

However, the September trilogue negotiations are likely to be marked by a point of friction, namely the role of synthetic fuels.

A clause has been included in the Council agreement to oblige the European Commission to prepare a report by 2026 on the feasibility of technologies such as “plug-in hybrids” and the “carbon neutral fuels” to achieve the climate goals.

However, Parliament has made it clear that it does not see a place for synthetic fuels in road passenger transport, believing that they should be reserved for modes of transport that are difficult to electrify, such as the air and maritime sectors.

Given the de facto ban on polluting vehicles, it is to be expected that NGOs and industry lobbies will once again emphasize the need to increase the number of electric vehicle charging stations in the European Union.

At EU level, this issue is covered by the regulation on the deployment of an alternative fuel infrastructure (AFIR), which defines the rules applicable to fuel charging and distribution points on the main EU transport corridors (known as the TEN-T network). The vote on the AFIR is due to take place in October in the Parliament’s Transport committee, after being postponed in July.

In addition to “Fit for 55”, two other pieces of legislation should be the talk of the town in the coming months: the publication of CO2 emission standards for heavy goods vehicles and the long-awaited Euro 7 standard on air pollution from passenger vehicles.

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