Global companies push EU Parliament to favour zero-emission trucks

Global companies push EU Parliament to favour zero-emission trucks

EURACTIV — 2023-10-20

News from Brussels

However, the biofuels industry has questioned the companies’ advice, arguing that ignoring the contribution of alternative fuels could slow the reduction of truck emissions.

IKEA, Geopost, Maersk, and Unilever, each with a sizeable truck fleet, have penned an open letter to MEPs in the European Parliament’s environment committee ahead of a vote on legislation to rein in the carbon footprint of trucks, coaches, and buses.

The businesses are part of EV100+, a global zero-emission vehicle initiative led by the non-profit organisation Climate Group.

In the letter, the companies, which have all committed to running clean trucks by 2040, argue that ambitious targets will send an investment signal to the market, increasing the availability of zero tailpipe emission vehicles.

It is crucial that the EU adopt ambitious targets for road transportation for the industry to decarbonize by 2040 and for the EU to stay competitive against growing competition internationally,” said Kenny Kristensen of Danish shipping giant Maersk, calling proposals to incentivise the use of green fuels in the sector “concerning”.

As a company operating all modes of transportation, we know how important it is to prioritise bio and e-fuels for aviation and ocean-going shipping, which cannot be electrified,” he added.

Elisabeth Munck af Rosenschöld, global sustainability manager with IKEA, said the company supports the call for stronger CO2 reduction targets.

It’s urgent to reach a positive tipping point where zero emission trucking becomes the new norm,” she said.

Trucks make up some 2% of EU road traffic, but are responsible for over a quarter of EU road emissions.

Under a legislative proposal tabled by the European Commission in February, new trucks and coaches would be required to achieve a 45% CO2 reduction compared to 2019 levels by 2030, scaling up to 65% by 2035 and 90% by 2040.

As the goals are fleet based, manufacturers would be required to sell primarily zero-emission vehicles by 2040, such as hydrogen-powered and electric trucks, to meet the targets. However, a smaller portion could continue to be sold with combustion engines.

The four companies “strongly recommend” that MEPs support a CO2 reduction target of 70% by 2035 and 92.5% by 2040.

Parliament’s rapporteur Bas Eickhout, a Green lawmaker who recently took over the position from former MEP Yannick Jadot, has gone further, expressing support for a 100% emission reduction target by 2040. 

However, this ambitious figure is unlikely to find backing from the centre-right EPP group and the ultraconservative ECR group, both of which have expressed concern about overburdening manufacturers and pushing up the cost of road freight vehicles.

I continue to believe that we as Europeans should follow a technological open approach in our legislation and policy should not limit the choices of companies on their way to decarbonisation,” shadow rapporteur for the EPP Jens Gieseke said in June.

Carbon Correction Factor 

In the Council of the EU, a debate emerged among member states as to whether the use of biofuels and e-fuels should be counted towards fleet targets.

Italy tabled an amendment that would calculate the level of biofuels and e-fuels in the overall fuel mix, deducting their carbon mitigation contribution from the fleet targets.

The so-called Carbon Correction Factor (CCF) mechanism would give a more accurate picture of the climate impact of combustion engines running on liquid fuels in Europe, recognising that the fuel mix is not 100% fossil fuels, Italy argued, finding support from Czechia and Poland.

However, the CCF mechanism proved controversial, with countries including France, Denmark, and the Netherlands firmly opposed.

Ultimately, it was proposed that the European Commission would examine the possibility of using CCF during a scheduled review of the law in 2027.

The liquid fuels industry strongly supports a CCF mechanism, arguing it is vital to effectively decarbonise road transport.

The European Biodiesel Board (EBB), a trade association representing biofuel producers, said that although electric trucks are important, biodiesel “has a critical role to play” in reducing emissions.

The introduction of a Carbon Correction Factor in the CO2 standards for HDVs would significantly increase emissions savings, reduce reliance on a single solution and prevent the emission of 200 m tonnes [of carbon] between 2020 and 2050,” said Xavier Noyon, EBB secretary general.

A balanced approach that includes biofuels is essential for a sustainable and effective transition in the transport sector, starting today with the legacy fleet,” he added.

A vote in the environment committee on the file will take place on 24 October. Once approved by the European Parliament as a whole, the amended text will form the Parliament’s negotiating position in discussions with member states.