Brussels Behind the Scenes: Green Deal on the move

Brussels Behind the Scenes: Green Deal on the move
Credit: Austin Kirk/ Flickr.

BRUSSELS BEHIND THE SCENES
Weekly analysis and untold stories
With SAM MORGAN

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Green Deal on the move

 

Sales of electric cars have overtaken diesels for the first time and a battery-powered auto was a best-seller in Europe’s overall market in December. It is a clear sign of how the EU’s climate policies are biting in the real world and offers some valuable lessons.

Transport accounts for about a quarter of the EU’s greenhouse gas output and, unlike other sectors like energy, the numbers are only going in one direction: up. Road transport is the main emissions-spewing culprit.

The EU has a plan to reverse that trend and help get the economy onto a green trajectory, so that overall emissions can be slashed and reach a net-zero level by 2050. There are finally some positive signs that good intentions are turning into good results.


BRUSSELS BEHIND THE SCENES is a weekly newsletter which brings the untold stories about the characters driving the policies affecting our lives. Analysis not found anywhere else, The Brussels Times’ Sam Morgan helps you make sense of what is happening in Brussels. If you want to receive Brussels behind the scenes straight to your inbox every week, subscribe to the newsletter here.


According to the EU’s ‘Fit for 55’ climate targets, 30 million electric vehicles should be on the continent’s roads by 2030 and every car on the forecourts of dealerships must be zero-emission.

Freshly crunched data for the Financial Times shows that battery-powered cars outsold diesels for the first time in December and that Tesla’s Model Y was the best selling car, petrol and diesel models included, in the final month of 2022.

These are significant milestones and show that a number of factors put in motion by the EU are actually starting to pay dividends.

Firstly, existing car CO2 standards and reduction targets are regulating the market as intended. Carmakers rushed to sell as many electric vehicles as possible to meet a 2020 benchmark and realised that the market is eager for sales.

Secondly, national governments such as France and Germany are offering generous subsidies to motorists to go electric. Many of those schemes were introduced mid-pandemic to prop up the industry, which was heavily impacted by the global slowdown.

Although the EU is not directly responsible for those subsidy perks, Brussels was wise enough not to stand in the way and gave the green light to any state aid decisions that had to get the euro-nod of approval.

All of this has contributed to creating a car market that is geared more and more towards EVs and consumers ready to trade in the pump for the plug.

Thirdly, the European Commission has proposed new targets and standards to meet its 30 million EV goal. Although those proposals are not yet law, the mere fact they are down on paper is doing plenty to push the market in the right direction.

Negotiations on those updated laws are still pending, as the European Council and Parliament still need to broker their respective opinions before trilateral talks can start later this year. A final compromise will be needed before anything becomes legally binding.

The EU is on to a bit of a winner with this particular aspect of the Green Deal, as entrenched industry interests are coming around to the EV way of thinking and the results are starting to speak for themselves.

Battery-powered matters have been helped by the simple fact that the global car market has been in decline for a number of years and consumer tastes are starting to turn towards these next-generation vehicles. Billion-euro companies that want to keep making money can sense which way the wind is starting to blow.

This is in contrast to, for example, the energy element of the Green Deal where the fossil fuel lobby still holds a lot of sway and the pushback against gas phaseout in particular is concerted. This week’s ‘taxonomy’ controversy is unfortunately proof of that.

But there is still plenty of work to be done and – also – ample opportunity for legislators to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Road transport is due to be included within the EU’s emissions trading system as part of the Fit for 55 updates; however, that plan has been criticised as misjudged and likely to mess with the delicate balance the industry has going for it, so say its detractors.

Clean mobility groups say that Brussels should stick to reduction targets and standards to decarbonise the sector, insisting that emissions trading will not have much of an impact other than potentially hitting vulnerable people with yet more costs.

The ongoing energy price crisis may yet convince decision-makers that you should not try and fix something that ain’t broke.

If the positive trends continue then the main problem that will have to be dealt with is availability of charging points. But there are promising signs there too: Tesla said this week that non-Tesla EVs will soon be able to use its charging network.

An €800bn pot of recovery cash on offer to governments also has to be spent wisely and charging points are among a list of projects that the Commission has championed. A lot of that money will be spent this way.

Green transport is starting – little by little – to come good. All the EU has to do now is keep up the momentum, do the same for planes and ships, help reduce the number of cars overall, get more people onto bicycles and the job will nearly be done…

 

Incidentally, if you want to be the proud owner of a new Tesla Model Y then have we got good news for you! Sign up to The Brussels Times and if you’re among the first 5,000 subscribers this year, your name will be entered into a raffle. Good luck!

BRUSSELS BEHIND THE SCENES is a weekly newsletter which brings the untold stories about the characters driving the policies affecting our lives. Analysis not found anywhere else, The Brussels Times’ Sam Morgan helps you make sense of what is happening in Brussels. If you want to receive Brussels behind the scenes straight to your inbox every week, subscribe to the newsletter here.


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