The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of the UN recently published a new report, aptly titled Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis, that focused on the causes and impact of climate change. The report provided an extensive collection and analysis of data that proves that human activities are behind the climatic changes. These contribute to, if not cause directly, some of the extreme weather conditions that we have witnessed across different parts of the globe.
Europe has recently been impacted with severe floodings in Belgium and Germany that cost many lives and livelihoods. Meanwhile, extended wildfires in the Mediterranean region, for example in Greece and Italy, have caused enormous damage to the population and the surrounding environments.
Against this background, the report provides a very alarming outlook, as climate change is happening faster than previously thought and causing more dire consequences than expected. It is an even worse picture than the one commonly presented by most people and associations who raised red flags and proposed solutions, like AVERE.
One of the most important takeaways is that this is just the beginning, and we must act now to reach net-zero emissions as soon as possible, and by 2050 at the very latest. The report identifies the mid-2030s as the time when we will reach an increase of 1.5C in the temperature of the Earth compared to pre-industrial levels. As we pass threshold after threshold in temperature increase, “tipping points” will cause severe chain effects on the global temperature balance, making the trend towards global warming increasingly irreversible. Therefore, we must already be on the way to full decarbonisation by 2030 and reach it by 2050 to avoid this scenario.
To get there, we need to tackle all causes of emissions across the economy and have a clear plan to decarbonise in the fastest way possible. The European Union has shown awareness of the emergency and has set specific goals of a 55% emission reduction by 2030 and full decarbonisation by 2050.
The EU is now on the path to structure its policies to achieve these objectives, looking at how it can tackle issues in different key sectors. Doing so requires a specific vision for achieving the above headline goals, which can guide the sequence of actions needed.
One of the most prominent contributors of CO² emissions in the atmosphere is road transport, which is why AVERE has developed a vision that aims to have a fully decarbonised European transport by 2050 and 100% new zero-emissions vehicles 2030, making Europe a world leader in electromobility.
To achieve these goals, we need to put in place a number of critical actions, supported by an adequate legislative framework:
– Accelerate Electric Vehicles (EV) uptake and phase out Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles by 2030.
CO2 reduction targets for cars and vans need to be relevant and lead to a clear phase-out path. In its Fit for 55 package the European Commission has already set 2035 as the phase-out year, though we believe it should be anticipated to 2030 and include intermediary targets for 2027 to ensure we are on track.
– Establish a harmonised, high quality, dense EV charging infrastructure network across Europe
As part of Fit for 55, the AFI Directive is now the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation.
The conversion to a regulation ensures swift and direct implementation. In addition, the regulation features binding targets for the roll-out of charging infrastructure, including for heavy-duty vehicles, to support the e-mobility market’s continued growth adequately.
It is an enormous step forward, very much aligned with our vision. It will now be crucial to ensure the target levels are set appropriately, and to enable the required roll-out by charging operators, for example by addressing administrative hurdles at the national level.
Meanwhile, the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, which is set to be revised towards the end of the year, should ensure any European citizen has the opportunity to charge their vehicle at home. Furthermore, both Directives should ensure the development of smart charging, notably through support for Vehicle-to-Grid technology.
– Work towards a green, integrated, smart, and efficient energy sector
To fully reap the benefits of electromobility, EU legislation should support the rapid uptake of renewable energy.
We have seen a critical update in the Renewable Energy Directive with the newly introduced obligation for the Member States to establish a fuel-neutral credit trading mechanism. This is a necessary instrument to keep electricity competitive on the energy market, as it cannot be blended with other fuels.
We now need to push forward and take the chance to set ambitious targets for the use of renewable energy in transport.
– Establish a sustainable and competitive European battery industry
As EV sales begin to take off in Europe, the EU will need to develop and produce batteries at a larger scale domestically.
The legislative framework, which is currently being updated, needs to ensure harmonisation in the internal market and a sustainable and competitive European production, striking a balance between quick implementation, a robust methodology and effective enforcement.
We also need rules for the responsible sourcing of raw materials across the whole EU economy in the upcoming proposal on Due Diligence, while ensuring a stable supply with raw materials to guarantee the needs of European consumers for clean transport.
– A comprehensive regulatory framework for connected and automated mobility
The current market includes various business models, and EU regulation needs to provide a holistic and consistent approach that integrates them. The aim should be to boost the development and uptake of innovative technologies, while keeping consumer interests at heart.
The IPPC report should provide the final push in the drive to carry out this vision into a concrete daily reality for all Europeans in our shared fight to stave off the worst consequences of climate change. Let’s act now, so that the worst-case scenario does not become a dreaded reality.