Climate Law Proposal: ‘Targets are not enough!’- Introducing ETF’s Policy on Climate Neutral Transport

14 Oct 2020

On 7 October, the European Parliament adopted their position on the European Climate Law Proposal. MEPs gave the green light to the new EU emission reduction target for 2030: 60% instead of the current 40%. Rapporteur, MEP Jytte Guteland greeted the result as a big step towards climate neutrality.

This target, if supported by Member States, will require doubled efforts to limit emissions from each sector of the EU economy. Transport is no exception.

To achieve the transition to climate-neutral transport, it’s clear that we need structural changes that go beyond moving conventional cars to electric ones.

The ETF has been highlighting for years that environmental sustainability and social sustainability go hand in hand; one cannot be achieved without the other.

Back in 2011, the EU White Paper on Transport already prioritised climate-related targets. Nine years later, and these targets still haven’t been reached. Why? And how do we get there?

In its Policy on Climate-Neutral Transport, the ETF answers that burning question by laying out six key principles for a socially sustainable climate policy.

  1. Modal shift to environmentally friendly transport modes
  2. Fair investments and infrastructure policy
  3. Cost sharing
  4. Skills and training
  5. Health and safety
  6. Just transition and climate action governance

Through its six key principles, the ETF highlights the need for a fair price for transport, accompanied by sufficient financial resources promoting sustainable transport modes. This means not only funding necessary infrastructure upgrades, recruitment and training of additional staff, but also supporting public transport companies that have been severely hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. These measures should lead to a modal shift where rail, urban public transport and shipping are the backbone of the European transport system, with road transport and civil aviation complementing it.

To reach climate objectives, we must first acknowledge that the transport sectors in its current shape is broken. The Parliament’s adopted text rightly mentions the need to strengthen the ‘polluter pays’ principle, but it has to cover also non-environmental costs resulting from circumventing labour and social security regulations. Proper enforcement of existing labour regulations and creation of a full social agenda for transport will be the key to internalising these costs.

Regarding governance, the adopted text on the European Climate Law correctly mentions the important role of civil society in policymaking. Obliging Member States to inform and consult its representatives, including social partners, throughout the legislative process on climate-related measures is a step in the right direction. What is equally crucial is to ensure the involvement of trade unions in the preparation of the planned sectoral decarbonisation roadmaps at the EU level.

As the adoption of the draft Law is still subject to the negotiations with the EU Council, we call on Member States to use it as an opportunity to change our societies for the better. Improving working conditions for transport workers should be part of the solution on how to achieve climate neutrality. This will in turn restore the balance between  transport modes and foster systemic change. Otherwise any target for transport and EU as such, no matter how ambitious, will remain on paper.

Our explanatory infographic & Policy on Climate-Neutral Transport can be downloaded here or at your right.