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Fit for 55 package: carbon pricing in the transport sector

The European Green Deal aspires to reduce the transport sector’s dependence on fossil fuels. In that context, the Commission presented the ‘Fit for 55 Package’ on 14 July 2021. This legislative package aligns the EU’s legislation with the 55% emission reduction target to be achieved by 2030. In order for the transport industry to play its part, the EU is increasing its efforts to put a price on CO2 emissions. Dr2 Consultants will demystify the Commission’s greening efforts within the ‘Fit for 55 Package’ through three illustrative examples of increased carbon pricing across different transport modalities.

1. Eurovignette and CO2 emission standards to decarbonize road transport

The use of road infrastructure by heavy-duty vehicles is regulated through the Eurovignette Directive. The revision of this file, first tabled in 2017 by the Commission, has entered the final stages of the decision-making procedure, and is not part of the Fit for 55 Package. The co-legislators reached in June an agreement on the revision. According to the agreement, time-based road charges will be phased out for heavy-duty vehicles on the core TEN-T network (main routes where most international transit of commercial vehicles takes place). Additionally, the revision grants Member States the possibility to set up combined charging system for heavy-duty vehicles, based on both time-based and distanced-based elements, in order to allow full implementation of the user-pays and polluter-pays principles.

The decarbonization of heavy-duty road transport will also be further incentivized by the introduction of a new system of varying road charges based on CO2 emissions.

With regards to passenger cars and light-duty vehicles, which are responsible for 75% of EU road transport CO2 emissions, the EU tabled as part of the Fit for 55 package the revision of the Regulation setting CO2 emission performance standards for cars and vans. The CO2 reduction target for cars, currently set at 15% for 2025 and 37,5% for 2030 compared to 2021 levels, have been raised in order to ensure that all cars registered as of 2035 will be zero-emission. The new targets require average emissions of new cars to come down by 55% from 2030 and 100% from 2035, compared to 2021 levels. This implies that the European Commission sees no future for the internal combustion engine in the future of the European transport sector.

Considering both aforementioned proposals, Dr2 Consultants expects that the various Fit for 55 carbon pricing measures in the road transport sector will stimulate the market demand for zero- and low emission vehicles, both for passenger as well as freight transport.

2. Extending the EU ETS to the maritime sector

The EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), the EU’s instrument to measure and price carbon emissions per unit, is also being revised as part of the Fit for 55 Package. The revised proposal does not only increase its ambition to reduce the number of EU-wide annual allowances at a quicker pace (which will significantly drive up the price for CO2 per ton by cutting supply of emissions permits), but it also extends its scope towards other sectors, including emissions from maritime transport. As a reasoning behind the inclusion of maritime transport in the EU ETS, the European Commission states that maritime transport emissions are currently higher than in 1990 and these are expected to grow further in a business-as-usual scenario. 

Fit for 55 services

The extension of the EU ETS to maritime transport applies in respect of emissions from incoming voyages (i.e. emissions from ships arriving at an EU port from a port outside the EU, as well as intra-EU voyages) and emissions occurring at berth in an EU port. The revision plans for the obligation to surrender allowances is to be gradually phased-in over the period between 2023 to 2025.

Investments to support the decarbonization of the maritime transport sector will be supported by the Innovation Fund.

The inclusion of maritime emissions in the scope of the EU ETS, and especially the determination of which emissions are covered (intra-EU voyages, emissions at berth in EU ports, as well as ships arriving at an EU port with their last port of call being outside the EU) risk impacting the competitiveness of the EU maritime transport at global level.

3. Revising energy taxation: end fossil fuel subsidies and incentivize green alternatives

The Energy Taxation Directive (ETD) sets the rules for the taxation of energy products such as motor fuels or electricity. The Commission also proposed a revision as part of the Fit for 55 Package in order to align the taxation of energy products with EU energy and climate policies and end outdated tax exemptions and incentives for the use of fossil fuels, for example the exemption for fuels in the aviation and maritime transport sectors.

Ending tax exemptions for aviation kerosene would result in higher tax burdens, thereby incentivizing the transition towards a higher uptake of sustainable aviation fuels. The revision of the ETD is welcomed by the railway sector, as ending tax exemptions for polluting fuels would accelerate the modal shift, level the playing field between the different modes of transport, and encourage consumers to choose clean alternatives such as rail transport.

Is your business Fit for 55?

The Fit for 55 Package will shape the legislative landscape for the upcoming decade, trigger the public debate and impact businesses across the different transport modalities. The revised and updated CO2 emission standards might radically impact your day-to-day business operations. More than ever, making your voice heard is crucial.

Over the last years, Dr2 Consultants has built up a track record in advising a broad range of transport clients in navigating the EU ecosystem. Would you like to know more about what the ‘Fit for 55 Package’ means for your organization? Feel free to reach out to us or visit our Fit for 55 webpage.

You can also sign up for our weekly Fit for 55 policy updates here.

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