Transportation – a third of Europe’s energy use

Transport currently accounts for a quarter of the Europe’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and the figure continues to rise as demand grows.  Cars, vans, trucks and buses emit more than 70 % of the overall greenhouse gas emissions from transport. The remaining 30 % mainly from shipping and aviation.

Transport’s share of final energy consumption is 31.7%,  which makes it the single largest end-use sector. Most of the fuel used in the sector comes from fossil fuels. The European Green Deal aims for a 90% reduction in transport emissions by 2050.

In December 2020, the European Commission presented ‘Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy’ together with an Action Plan of 82 initiatives to be implemented? from 2020 to 2024.

By 2050, the key goals in the transport sector will include:

  • No more conventionally-fuelled cars in cities.
  • 40% use of sustainable low carbon fuels in aviation; at least 40% cut in shipping emissions.
  • A 50% shift of medium distance intercity passenger and freight journeys from road to rail and waterborne transport.
  • All of this is expected to contribute to a 60% cut in transport emissions by the middle of the century.

The EC’s ‘Fit for 55 package’ published in July 2021 includes proposed revisions for several directives, including Light duty vehicles (see below) and a separate new emissions trading system is set up for fuel distribution for road transport and buildings.

The package also includes proposals to revise the EU's recast Renewable Energy Directive (RED II), including a 13pc GHG intensity reduction target for transport fuels by 2030 and a sub-target for sustainable advanced biofuels.

EU legal framework for transport

EU policies aim to reduce the adverse effects of transport by shifting to the least polluting and most efficient modes. 

In September 2020, a  new EU vehicle type-approval framework started to apply across the EU, aiming at raising the quality level and independence of vehicle type-approval and testing. Initiatives include air quality and CO2 standards, the improvement of emission testing for cars and the support for alternative fuels and battery production.

 EU Directives and regulations on transport

Light-duty vehicles

Light-duty vehicles – cars and light commercial vehicles (vans) – produce around 15% of the EU emissions of CO2.

The Regulation (EU) 2019/631 sets new CO2 emission standards for cars and vans. With the ‘Fit for 55’ package, a proposal amending the 2019/631 Directive with updated targets, was submitted.

The proposal includes the following EU fleet-wide CO2 emission reduction targets for new passenger cars and vans (compared to the 2021 target): 

  • From 1 January 2030: 55 % for cars, and 50 % for vans,
  • From 1 January 2035: 100 % for cars, and 100 % for vans

CO2 labelling of cars

To help drivers choose new cars with low fuel consumption, EU legislation

The Car labelling Directive, Directive 1999/94/EC, requires Member States to ensure that relevant information is provided to consumers, including a label showing a car's fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions. 

Heavy-duty vehicles

Heavy-duty vehicles – trucks and buses – are responsible for about 25 % of CO2 emissions from road transport in the EU and for some 5% of total EU emissions.

In  2019, the Regulation (EU) 2019/1242 was adopted, setting CO2 emission standards for heavy-duty vehicles, with targets for reducing the average emissions from new lorries for 2025 and 2030.

Fuel quality and alternative fuels

Fuel quality is an important element in reducing GHG emissions from transport. The Fuel Quality Directive requires a reduction of the greenhouse gas intensity of transport fuels by at least of 6% by 2020 (and onwards). Together with the Renewable Energy Directive, it also regulates the sustainability of biofuels.

The proposed Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation aims to ensure availability of the recharging and refuelling infrastructure for zero-emission vehicles.