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Climate ambitions of Flanders and the European Green Deal

On 21 June, in an interview on Flemish news television VRT, First Executive Vice-President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, called on Flanders to be more ambitious in the fight against climate neutrality. However, he also said, he was optimistic that Flanders would do its part being a wealthy region, which already has industrial pioneers on board for the European objectives. But what exactly are the Flemish climate objectives, and how are they aligned with the EU plans?

Greenhouse gas emissions reduction by 35%

The Flemish climate policy plan sets out the guidelines for the climate policy for the period 2021-2030. In line with the objective imposed by the EU for Belgium, the plan puts forward the objective to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Flanders by 35% by 2030 compared to 2005. However, the EU is setting this goal at a reduction level of 50-55% by 2030. The required effort is identified per sector and, where necessary, the greenhouse gas reduction target is converted into sub-targets. In addition, the plan also contains the main measures required to achieve this objective and puts Flanders on the path towards a low-carbon future.

Energy efficiency

Another priority for Flanders is to increase energy efficiency for all sectors. The three largest energy consumption sectors in Flanders are industry, residential and transport sectors. In addition to improving energy efficiency, simultaneous efforts must be made to achieve the strong development of renewable energy. Energy services and technologies will be digitally controlled and intelligently linked. However, this is a huge challenge for Flanders. In the period 2005-2018, emissions decreased by only 5%. The Flemish Government, therefore, intends to focus more on increasing innovation, the persistence of circular economy, parallel federal policies and additional EU instruments (legislative and financial).

Transforming buildings will also play an important role in increasing the energy efficiency in densely populated Flanders. The climate policy plan encourages the renovation of residential buildings, rebuilding after demolition and making the heating installation more sustainable. This is in line with the EU’s ‘Renovation Wave’ initiative, part of the European Green Deal, with the goal to double the annual renovation rate of the existing building stock. The European Commission will publish communication on this in September 2020.

How can Dr2 Consultants advise you

The EU’s ambition is to lead the way towards a more sustainable future. Contrary to the fear that the COVID-19 pandemic would jeopardize the green agenda for the coming years, the Commission has shown its commitment to accelerate the green transition during the recovery phase. This green transition will pose challenges but will also provide opportunities to businesses, like front runners who can introduce their new and innovative approaches in Flanders. With the Dr2 Consultants’ European Green Deal Impact Scan, we will provide you with a comprehensive analysis of how the European Green Deal will affect your business, identifying the opportunities and challenges and highlighting moments to positively influence the policies and legislation. In addition, we are able to provide you with high-end intelligence on the developments in Flanders that allows for a comprehensive overview of relevant files for your business.

Dr2 Consultants hosts webinar on competitiveness of transport sector post COVID-19

Main takeaways

The COVID-19 outbreak has seen an unprecedented impact on the transport sector in the EU. Due to national containment measures, travel restrictions and the closure of border crossings, passenger transport is at a standstill and trade flows are severely impacted. In order to help EU citizens and businesses, the Commission has issued several contingency measures to support the transport sector, e.g. by identifying green freight lanes, issuing guidelines on passenger rights and allowing financial relief under the temporary state aid framework.

In this context, Dr2 Consultants organized a dedicated transport webinar on 7 May 2020, focusing on the question how to reinstate the EU’s transport industry in a post COVID-19 era, in order to ensure the transport sector can enable economic growth, secure jobs, increase global competitiveness and allow people and goods to move across Europe and beyond. Mr. Daniel Mes, Member of the Cabinet of Executive Vice-President on the European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, responsible for the transport portfolio, and Mr. Jan-Christoph Oetjen, Member of the European Parliament (Renew Europe) and Vice-Chair of the Committee for Transport and Tourism took part in the panel discussion and shared their views on the subject.

 

The main takeaways from the webinar are:

  • The Commission is working on a coordinated exit strategy in which all modes of transport are covered, including practical advice on how to restart operations while ensuring the safety of the passengers;
  • It is crucial that the transport sector returns to its old strength and becomes even more resilient. It is a joint effort by the EU and its Member States to ensure the European transport sector remains competitive on a global level;
  • Mr. Mes highlighted the need for political guidance when national measures are taken to ensure consistency in sectoral investments. The transport sector will be dependent on both public as well as private investments, which the Commission will aim to mobilize;
  • Both speakers highlighted that transport will be one of the main pillars in the green recovery of the European economy. Mr. Oetjen emphasized the need for using a mix of transport modes based on their characteristics and respective advantages. Mr. Mes stated that it is key to ensure that the recovery of the transport sector is green recovery, and conditions can be attached to financial aid received by the sector.

As the webinar was recorded, please find the playback link here.

As a next step, the Commission is expected to publish a follow-up to its ‘European roadmap towards lifting coronavirus containment measures on Wednesday 13 May, which will entail a broad package of recommendations aimed at reinstating connectivity and tourism. The package will include a Communication on tourism, protocols on health and safety for main tourism locations, guidance on safe and healthy resumption of passenger transport and guidance on lifting of international borders. The package is also expected to include an assessment of the application of the temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the EU.

COVID-19 services

The fight against the spread of COVID-19 has unprecedented consequences for the daily life of almost everyone and puts pressure on the global economy. The crisis leads to questions and uncertainty, while companies try to anticipate and mitigate the impact on their daily business operations. Dr2 Consultants offers clarity to companies during the COVID-19 crisis. Please check out our webpage to explore the possibilities for your company.

Dr2 Consultants hosts successful transport networking event with focus on sustainability

On 22 January, Dr2 Consultants hosted a transport networking event welcoming over 60 representatives of the transport sector both from EU institutions and private companies.

The event at Holland House provided an opportunity to exchange views about the policy priorities of the EU. The networking event featured two keynote speakers, Mr. Kristijan Ležaić, Counsellor at the Croatian Presidency of the Council of the EU, and Mr. Daniel Mes, member of Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans’ cabinet giving interesting insights about the impact of the European Green Deal on transport.

The Presidency will focus on the improvement and finalization of the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) and the achievement of a competitive and sustainable shipping sector. The Croatian Presidency will also try to finalize trilogues on the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) as soon as the negotiations for the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2021-2027 are completed.

Mr. Daniel Mes explained that the Commission is committed to work towards a sustainable transport sector that is beneficial for all. The Climate Law that will be presented in February will propose binding targets that will allow the EU to become climate neutral by 2050. Mr. Mes invited stakeholders to take an active role in shaping the EU’s climate agenda.

“At Dr2 Consultants, we promote constant interaction between policymakers and stakeholders in order to ensure future-proof legislation, especially now, at the beginning of the new policy mandate and in view of the challenges the EU is facing. We look back at a successful event and we look forward to gathering colleagues from the transport, digital and sustainability sector in the coming months.”- added Margreet Lommerts, Managing Partner at Dr2 Consultants.

Bold sustainability ambitions in the European Union

Already in July, Ursula von der Leyen made clear that the new European Commission has bold ambitions to tackle climate change: The European Union must become an example of how to live sustainably. In this regard, energy efficiency and circular economy are central to the European way of life.

Frans Timmermans and the European Green Deal

The European Green Deal will be the guide for this ambitious transition, targeting among other things, an emission reduction of 50% to 55% by 2030. This target is about 10-15% higher than the current 2030 climate and energy framework. The Commissioner in charge of the Green Deal will be the Dutchman, Frans Timmermans, who also holds the position of first Executive Vice-President of the next European Commission. In his hearing in the European Parliament on 8 October, he urged the European Parliament to be ambitious and lead by example in the world. To make a real difference with regards to global warming, the EU needs to focus on talks with its global partners, according to Timmermans. He feels like he has got a strong mandate, since according to statistics, 9 out of 10 European citizens want the EU to act decisively on climate change.

Concretely, Timmermans will propose a draft Climate Law within the first 100 days of his mandate. This law will put into legislation the EU’s climate ambitions, but most importantly determine the in between steps to be taken to reach these goals. Timmermans is strongly considering using infringement procedures against Member States not complying with the EU’s upcoming climate laws and its ambitions. Furthermore, the Climate Pact will engage citizens with the EU’s climate policy which would make legislation seem less ‘top-down’.

Virginijus Sinkevičius and the European Circular Economy

Three years after its adoption, the Circular Economy Action Plan can be considered fully completed. Its 54 actions have now been delivered or are being implemented. Together with Timmermans, Lithuanian Virginijus Sinkevičius will however increase the ambitions in the field of the circular economy. Sinkevičius stated during his hearing in the European Parliament on 3 October that if the EU ensured the complete circular use of just four materials (steel, aluminum, cement and plastic) – which goes further than the existing Circular Economy Action Plan – EU’s industrial emissions would be cut in half.

Sinkevičius believes that a new action plan can involve three major areas:

  • First, by examining the ways in which the EU produces and consumes. He mentioned particular further action on eco-design and more focus on reuse and repair. This strand could also integrate circularity in other sectors such as textiles, construction, food and ICT.
  • Second, by helping consumers make informed choices.
  • Third, by moving beyond recycling. Waste should not only be minimized, but prevented completely in areas such as textiles and construction.

Environment Council

Not only the European Commission wants to increase the European ambitions regarding climate change and sustainability, but also the Council realizes their importance. On 4 October, Environment Ministers held a debate on the EU’s strategic long-term vision for a climate neutral economy and adopted conclusions on climate change, which set out the EU’s position for the UN climate change meetings (COP25) in Chile in December 2019. The Council called for action to promote circularity systemically across the value chain, including from the consumer perspective, in key sectors including textiles, transport, food as well as construction and demolition. The Council also stressed the need for more measures on batteries and plastics.

 

 

 

 

The push for decarbonization of transport

Now that the President-elect of the new European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen unveiled her team of candidate-Commissioners and the subsequent portfolio distribution, it is time to determine its priorities in the field of transport. The most notable feature in the plans of the Commission is the push for decarbonization in the transport sector in order to comply with the climate objectives as set out in the EU’s 2050 Climate Strategy. So, what is exactly expected in the coming five years?

New structure, new responsibilities

Within the new structure of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans has been proposed as one of the top candidates of the Commission, responsible for realizing the European Green Deal, according to which Europe should be climate-neutral by 2050.

In his new role as Executive Vice-President, Timmermans will coordinate the work of multiple Commissioners, such as Transport, Energy and Agriculture, and their respective contributions towards the Green Deal. Moreover, Timmermans will have direct access to the Directorate-General of Climate Action, which will give him more influence in initiating and implementing legislations. Timmermans is expected to present his first outline of the European Green Deal in early December, in which more details are expected on how transport should contribute to the climate objectives. Frans Timmermans will be heard by the Parliamentary Committees on 8 October.

Decarbonization and the legislative framework

Following the publication of the new Commission’s policy priorities, von der Leyen has set out the priorities for each Commissioner-designate in a dedicated mission letter. According to von der Leyen, transport is at the intersection of the climate and digital transition. The priorities for the next Transport Commissioner should be to ensure sustainable, safe and affordable transport, in which emissions are further reduced. The following policy measures can be expected from the next Transport Commissioner:

  • Strong focus on completing the missing infrastructure links in the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T). This should help to smoothen connections in logistic chains and stimulate cross-border transport, i.e. by high-speed train connections;
  • Comprehensive review of existing legislation to align it with the EU’s climate ambitions. In concrete terms, this means breaking up the Energy Taxation Directive and subsequent voting procedures (currently by unanimity), as well as extending the EU’s Emission Trading System (ETS) to the maritime sector and reducing free allowances for airlines;
  • The new Transport Commissioner is asked to also stimulate global solutions besides the European routers, within the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO), to avoid hampering the competitiveness of the European transport sector;
  • For road transport policy proposals are expected on the alternative fuels- and EV-infrastructure, as well as new policy regarding road safety and autonomous vehicles.

Perspective of the Member States

The European Commission has ambitious objectives to decarbonize transport, but what about the commitment of the Member States? The EU’s 2050 climate strategy was the centerpiece of the Transport Council of 20 September. Despite an ambitious agenda of the new Commission, Member States seem to have diverging views on the proposed actions for the different transport sectors.

For the road, maritime and aviation sectors, decarbonization is a central theme for the European Commission as well as for the Ministers of Transport. However, there was no explicit majority support during the Transport Council meeting for an extension of the Emission Trading System to the maritime sector, even though the new Commission states this as one of their key ambitions. Secondly, although the new Commission aims to reduce ETS allowances for the aviation sector, the Transport Council meeting also highlighted the lack of support from the Member States for an extension of the current ETS regime for the aviation sector (ending the so-called “stop the clock” measure). Multiple Member States agreed that, for now, the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) are the first-choice platforms to reach decarbonization goals. Moreover, changing the voting rules within the Energy Taxation Directive to be able to pass taxation legislation without unanimity from the Member States, is not expected to get support in the Council since Member States prefer taxation measures to remain a national competence.

On rail transport, there is an overall consensus among Member States on the ‘switch to rail’ as a desirable modality shift. As of this moment, fragmentation of national systems and lack of cooperation on cross-border railway connections impede the rise of the train as a more convenient transport mode. The Member States expect investments needed for the development of rail infrastructure through the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF).

Balancing ambitions

When it comes down to politicized dossiers such as the Energy Taxation Directive and extending the EU’s Emissions Trading System, Member States are currently not on the same page as the European Commission. It remains to be seen how the Commission will pursue its agenda and get the necessary support in the Council. More details are expected during the hearings of the Commissioners-designate in the European Parliament.