Following the Commission’s proposal for a review of the Clean Vehicles Directive last November, the debate on how to best promote clean and energy efficient road transport vehicles in the EU is moving forward. As the European Parliament’s ENVI Committee gathered this week its members’ proposals for amendments to the Commission’s text, CEEP is continuing to actively spread the voice of public service’s providers on this crucial file.

CEEP welcomes the ambitions of the European Commission to decarbonize the European economy in general and the transport sector in particular. Currently, road transport causes more than 70% of overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in transport. Moreover, road traffic in cities alone is responsible for 23% of all the EU-wide GHG-emissions. Given these figures, it is urgent to focus political action on individual motorized transportation, i.e. cars and trucks.

In the past, CEEP members, including public transport operators and municipalities, have already been eager to improve air quality and abate emissions through different strategies by, for instance, strengthening urban public transport, introducing congestion charges, using sustainable biofuels/ hybrids, further electrifying the fleet by extending the tram and/ or metro system and/ or by procuring e-buses.

Given this important contribution of public transport, the Commission’s proposal for the Clean Vehicles Directive that puts the highest targets (for buses) on the public transport sector requires urgent improvement. Whilst CEEP shares the good intentions of the proposal, some of the concrete measures are capable of creating negative effects on public transport and, therefore, would aggravate the situation of increasing emissions and air pollution.

Indeed, public transport is the best de-carbonization strategy and must not be jeopardised. Reliable, affordable and accessible public transport is a crucial success factor when attempting to abate emissions and decarbonize the transport systems in cities and beyond. Moreover, in times of congested urban areas, it is ever more important to use public transport as a key success factor in modern urban planning. However, the Commission’s proposal to oblige public transport operators to buy within a short timeframe a very high share of alternatively fuelled buses might lead to a considerable increase of costs for public transport. Consequently, commuters might opt for the car again instead of for public transport which would lead to the opposite effects of further increasing emissions and congestion levels.

Cities have always applied different solutions according to their specific needs, historical legacies and conditions such as topography or climate. Thus, some countries – rich in forest – rather use sustainable biofuels, others diversify their already very electrified system of trams and metros with Diesel EURO VI buses, others – located at the seaside – use LNG-busses. Although different public transport systems are in place, all cities and municipalities share the twin goal of providing clean and cost-effective services. Nevertheless, the very narrow definition of a Clean (Heavy Duty) Vehicle does not provide enough flexibility and should thus be adjusted to the diversity of modern transport solutions in the different parts of the EU.

Moreover, the transposition of the Directive into national law is currently a conundrum. Some parts of the text are very vague, thereby, increasing legal uncertainty for cities and municipalities. Therefore, CEEP suggests that the ongoing debates on the Directive’s final version should lead to increased legal certainty and less administrative burden and complexity. This will allow public transport providers to continue being one of the key drivers of clean and energy efficient transport solutions in the EU.

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