The European Union (EU) announced on Monday that it will endorse a new long-term transport strategy which could ban cars fueled by gasoline or diesel by the year 2050. Environmentalists and automakers alike expressed their mixed feelings towards the new plan.
Labeled Transport 2050, the strategy plans to shift the majority of passenger transport to alternatives such as high-speed rail, mandate a 40 percent use of sustainable low carbon fuels in aviation, and require a 40 percent reduction in shipping emissions.
The Vice-President of the European Union, Siim Kallas, said, “Transport 2050 is a roadmap for a competitive transport sector that increases mobility and cuts emissions. We can and we must do both. The widely held belief that you need to cut mobility to fight climate change is simply not true.”
“We can break the transport system’s dependence on oil without sacrificing its efficiency and compromising mobility,” said Kallas. “It can be win-win.”
With the European Union’s 500 million citizens, the commission states that its goal is to create a Single European Transport Area. This area will benefit from more competition and have a fully integrated transport network which links the different means for travel and allows for a profound shift in transport patterns for both passengers and freight.
In the urban section of transport, this will mean that cleaner cars and alternative fuels will be required. Transport 2050 calls for a 50 percent shift away from petroleum-fueled cars by 2030, and a complete phase-out by the year 2050.
As for the European high-speed rail network, the goal is to triple the length of its existing tracks by 2030 and maintain a “dense railway network” in all member states. Ultimately, the majority of medium-distance passenger transport would be by rail as of 2050.
30 percent of road freight, that travels over 300 kilometers, will be shifted to rail or water transport by 2030, and more than 50 percent by the year 2050. To accommodate the shift, new technology for efficient, green freight will have to be developed.
These strategies, and others outlined in Transport 2050, would ultimately contribute to a 60 percent cut in transport emissions by the middle of the century.
The European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) said automakers support the “holistic” approach to transport, but the pre-defined method “sends the wrong signal on the acknowledged principle of ‘co-modality.'” The main objection of the automakers is to the mandated shift from road freight transport to other means such as rail or water.
“A simple call for a decrease in the use of motor vehicles will not provide the easy solution it appears to be, because there will not be less demand for the flexible solutions that road transport provides in contrast to other modes,” said ACEA Secretary General Ivan Hodac.
Many environmentalists in the United Kingdom said they support the general goals of Transport 2050, but some disagree with the means for arriving at those goals.
The UK’s Friends of the Earth transport campaigner Richard Dyer said, “Weaning our transport system off its oil addiction is essential to protect people from soaring fuel prices and the planet from climate change. We’re all paying the price for a transport policy that’s been heading in the wrong direction for far too long.”
“Phasing out cars that run on fossil fuels from cities is a good way to kick-start action, but despite these headline grabbing proposals the emission reduction targets in the plan lack ambition,” said Dyer.
“Commercial biofuels are not the answer,” he said. “There’s growing concern that commercial fuel crops imported into Europe are destroying forests, driving people off their land and generating more emissions than they save.”
“Instead we need better public transport, smarter cars that use less fuel and more walking and cycling for shorter journeys,” said Dyer. “And our planning systems must be overhauled to reduce the distances people need to travel for work or essential services.”
The reasons stated for the implication of Transport 2050 are the increasing scarcity and unstable supply of oil, along with the imminent need to limit human-induced climate change.
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