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CEPS task force report identifies tightening emissions standards as key policy to hit EU 60% reduction in transport GHG; full life-cycle emissions optimal metric

The report from a task force assembled by the CEPS (Centre for European Policy Studies), a Brussels-based think tank, on European transport policy has concluded that the EU’s goal of a 60% greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction in the transport sector in 2050 compared to 1990 levels is possible, but at a cost.

Achieving the goal will require a comprehensive policy strategy that needs to be both “credible and adequate”, the report found. Credibility requires beginning to implement policies now—i.e. measures such as standards, taxation or infrastructure development—consistent with the long-term objective. Adequacy requires the measures, in their entirety, to have the potential to meet the target while neither undermining the internal market for transport nor its affordability.

The report of the task force, which was convened in 2011, brought together the views of a diverse group of stakeholders, including the car and oil industries, business associations, international organizations, EU member states and NGOs.

The report argues that the biggest component of total transport reductions could come from more energy-efficient vehicles, combined with the gradual introduction of low-carbon fuels and new engine technologies. Eco-driving and efficient transport systems could provide for the other—much smaller shares—of reductions.

Key messages and findings for the report include:

  • The key policy for reducing GHG emissions in road transport is the steady tightening of emissions standards in line with the technological frontier. The steady tightening of standards will first incentivize combustion efficiency and in parallel speed up the deployment of new low-carbon technologies and fuels, such as vehicles running on low-carbon electricity, hydrogen, compressed natural gas or sustainable biofuels. These technologies will be needed to progressively meet standards.

  • Measures to promote energy-efficient vehicles and low-carbon technology should be based on the full life-cycle (well-to-wheel) as far as is practicably possible. Until methodologies for calculating well-to-wheel emissions are agreed upon, the most appropriate way will be to regulate energy efficiency per vehicle combined with the CO2 content of the fuel, based on practical methodology. As the standards’ stringency increases, so does the need for an effective combination of both fuel and vehicle standards, based on well-to- wheel emissions.

  • Setting clear standards for vehicle efficiency and fuels allow manufacturers of cars and other vehicles to anticipate the direction of future standards. Such standards are effective in overcoming barriers to the introduction of more efficient vehicles and fuels, while creating regulatory certainty for product developers and manufacturers.

  • To reinforce the incentives from emissions standards, member state governments can differentiate existing transport taxes according to the CO2 emissions of vehicles and the energy content and CO2 emissions of fuels. Leverage can be enhanced by local and city governments’ incentives for efficient and low-carbon vehicles in line with local circumstances and choices, on condition that the structure of incentives—not the level—is aligned across the EU, i.e. that vehicles are labelled across Europe in a harmonized way according to carbon-efficiency, or whatever other measure or metric the EU will choose after 2020.

  • The report identified five main technology paths towards low-carbon transport. Improving the energy efficiency of vehicles (including hybridization) has “huge potential”, both in the short and long run. The other four are electric, and plug-in hybrid and hybrid vehicles, using electricity from low-carbon sources; hydrogen vehicles fueled from renewable or zero GHG sources; gas vehicles using natural gas and biogas; and biofuels with a positive well-to-wheel effect on GHG emissions.

    The Task Force strongly recommended focusing on incentives to reduce well-to-wheel emissions of GHGs in a technologically neutral way instead of stimulating specific technologies.

    By using technology-neutral incentives, in the long run the market forces will select the most efficient technologies. This should result in a fleet of vehicles with a much better energy efficiency using different low- carbon fuels for different applications, whatever the most cost-effective combination is. Focusing on one specific technology—e.g. electric vehicles—might slow down the transition to low-carbon transport. However, low-carbon transport technologies, which have network effects, i.e. require dedicated infrastructure, where research, demonstration and early deployment are too risky for private investors alone or where scale effects for new technologies (e.g. battery costs) exist, may require specially designed public support for a fixed, limited period of time.

    —CEPS report

  • The transport system can become more energy and/or carbon efficient via higher load factors and occupancy rates; by co-modality combining different modes of transport; by better urban planning; and by reducing mileage. However, in the past this area has only yielded limited success because efficient shift gains were neutralized by volume growth and second, available policy measures (e.g. pricing, regulatory measures) were not used to their full potential.

  • The Task Force estimated that a better transport system can reduce GHG emissions from transport to a considerable extent. Rational transport pricing should also ensure that each mode pays for the full costs, including externalities, and provide sources for infrastructure investment. This should include carbon and energy taxing, for example, as proposed in the amendment of the Energy Tax Directive.

  • Full deployment of current technologies and further development of low- carbon technology are expected to take many years. Action now is crucial to show political commitment to the long-term target. Postponing policy development to beyond 2020 or even 2030 will undermine the credibility and predictability that transport providers, vehicle and fuels producers, technology providers or investors need.

The Task Force identified 15 measures towards low-carbon transport that can be taken immediately:

  1. he EU should continue and accelerate setting predictable and progressively tightening CO2 emissions standards for road vehicles and ships, where reduction potential exists.

  2. Define a realistic test procedure and test cycle as close as practical to real world conditions, including accounting for carbon benefits of components.

  3. The EU should expand the EU-wide labeling obligation for cars to include vans, and harmonize EU labeling systems.

  4. Member states and, where appropriate, regional and local governments should differentiate sales, vehicle and company car taxes according to CO2 emissions.

  5. The EU and member states should use public procurement and incentives to fleet managers as tools to accelerate the deployment of more fuel-efficient vehicles and low-carbon fuels if these measures are cost-effective.

  6. The EU should develop a commonly agreed GHG accounting methodology for logistics and, as far as possible, push for global methodologies.

  7. The EU should allow for full cabotage—i.e., allowing national carriage of goods for hire or reward to be carriedout by non-resident haulers—in road transport.

  8. The EU and member states should continue supporting the introduction of eco-driving systems in vehicles in order to change driving behavior and encourage continuous training.

  9. The EU must push member states to align taxation levels of different fuels and vehicle types and stop indirect subsidies.

  10. Member states should consider strategies to compensate for the taxation shortfall from fuels due to higher fuel economy by, for example, gradually adapting the minimum fuel tax level in the EU to increase incentives to shift to higher fuel economy and to keep total tax paid constant in real terms for both the consumer and the state revenues.

  11. The EU and member states should maintain support for research, development and early deployment of the entire array of promising low-carbon technologies.

  12. The EU should continue to implement an ambitious differentiated co- financing rate for low-carbon TEN-T projects.

  13. The EU and member states should ensure that there is no further delay in the application of advanced communication, navigation and surveillance (CNS) systems and air traffic management (ATM) systems.

  14. Member states, in co-operation with the EU, should improve walking and cycling facilities, co-modality and seamless transfer.

  15. Member states should enforce speed limits in all modes.



Kit P

Three morons walk in to a bar (pub?) and order a brew. After a few too many, moron #1 says 'I predict in 40 years .....'.

I predict that the only thing that has 'great potential' for reducing anthropogenic ghg emission is running out of fossil fuel. That is not going to happen in the next 40 years.

Of course 90% of ghg is natural, so the EU may want to regulate termites in the jungle.


Suppose Europe manages this, and gets transport CO2 down by 60%.
The rest of the world, especially the developing world, will say, "Thanks very much" for marginally cheaper oil and consume it anyway.
You need a global agreement to reduce CO2 if it is to have any effect, and there is no way the developing nations will stand for it. They'll say "you burned oil, why shouldn't we".

Unless you have something better than oil driven vehicles at low prices, which I don't see.

I see EVs, but these are expensive and most of the electricity to run them is from coal, which may be even worse by 2060 (i.e. higher CO2 electricity, as we are seeing in Germany).

What would it take - a new battery technology that was 3x better than what we had now in terms of cost ?

Safe reactors, or a change in the attitudes in the west towards what we could build now if we tried - I don't know.

Wind and solar look nice, but have bad usage factors and are not dispatchable, and there isn't enough hydro to buffer them up.
If you really go for it (like Solar in Germany), you end up with the tail wagging the dog (in terms of everything dancing to the solar cycle) and expensive power, which still needs 100% backup for the times when there is no solar (night anyone ?).

You can add a certain percentage (30-40 ?) to a grid, but after that, you need dispatchable power and to stop kidding yourself.

Anyway, the question is should we even bother, or just give up and buy some jetskis for the meantime.


There's a relative quick fix to help developing nations who will not willingly participate in the reduction of the world's GHG, i.e. 'DO NOTHING'. Wars +++ will take care of it, if not, block imports from them or impose much higher tariffs.

For the naysayers in the developed nations, they have to be re-educated. That may not happen during the current generation. Schools have to convince their children and grand children?


No way Harvey...we get all our cheap good from developing nations. We're never going to boycott them.

Bob Wallace

" the EU’s goal of a 60% greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction in the transport sector in 2050 compared to 1990 levels is possible, but at a cost"

2050 - 2013 = 37 years.

Within five years we should see EVs with 200 mile/320km ranges below $30k. Within ten years they should be priced at or below the cost of a same-model ICEV.

In the remaining 27+ years we will see vehicle fleets turned over a couple of times. Few, if any, will continue to purchase ICEVs and pay the significantly higher operating costs of burning fuel.

The cost to EU countries? Installing an adequate number of charge points. If done correctly these costs will be born by users and cost governments nothing in the long term.

By 2050 developing nations which buy up used vehicles from wealthier countries will be well into their first generation of used EVs.

That's what I see in my coffee grounds this morning....

Bob Wallace

BTW, I think pursuing higher ICEV efficiency is a good thing. We won't transition off petroleum overnight.

Some people will be slower to switch and if we get them into more efficient ICEVs that will be a help in cutting GHG.

A few knuckleheads will buy up the last few ICEVs manufactured and store them in their barns in order to never have to drive an EV. Like the people who bought a freezer full of film in order to avoid digital.

Let them fill their barns with 60 MPG cars and not Hummers.

Bob Wallace

I'll add some more.

If EV batteries don't progress to the point at which 200 mile range, <20 minute 90% charging becomes affordable then hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are likely to take the place of petroleum ICEVs.

This should be a settled issue in less than ten years.

It's really hard to see us driving on oil 40 years from now. The math simply does not work.

Kit P

There is a big hole in BS Bob's theory. BEV do not reduce ghg emissions. BEV may shift demand from oil to coal but that is about it.


4th-generation nuclear OR wind OR solar can each easily replace all the coal we could ever burn long before 2050.

Simply do the math on the exponential growth of wind and solar, of production capacity as well as price/watt will be mindblowing in 2030. The High-voltage DC network being built at this moment throughout Europe in combination with the smart grid will guarantee reliable renewable (+nuclear if wanted) electricity continuously.
Electricity for BEV, as well as H2 for fuelcells won't need fossils by then.

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