CER calls for full decarbonisation of EU railways by 2050
The Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER) has called on the European authorities to implement a number of policy measures for providing full decarbonisation by 2050. This is vital for the future of our planet and enhancing the competitiveness of the EU rail sector.
In its recent policy paper, CER supported the European Green Deal which has been announced by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen for the first 100 days of the new Commission’s mandate. In its turn, the association proposed to set milestones for EU transport to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions: by 25 per cent by 2030, by 65 per cent by 2040 and by 100 per cent by 2050. The last milestone means that the EU transport sector will become carbon-neutral.
“These numbers should be made binding targets, requiring swift corrective action by Member States when EU transport emissions overshoot. A deep transformation of EU transport will also reduce Europe’s oil dependence and create jobs and growth for Europeans,” the association noted. Besides this, CER recommended the EU authorities to support a package of policy measures in order to reach the mentioned goals.
Most of the overarching policy measures are dealt with a shift to rail. “Rail is the existing green mode of motorised transport and must be enabled to fully play its role as the backbone of the digitalised and seamless multimodal system,” CER specified. Within this policy, the EU and Member States should pay more attention to increase a market share of rail freight in EU land transportation via supporting digitalisation, combined transport, single-wagon services and last-mile infrastructure. As for passenger rail transportation, the development of cross-border rail connections should be supported.
Also, CER offered to promote marginal social-cost pricing (MSCP) in transport including implementation of ‘polluter pays’ and ‘user pays’ so as to internalise transport externalities. “Only in such a framework, green modes like rail have a fair chance to compete and to fully play their role. Rail is today the only motorised transport mode to nearly cover its marginal costs, according to a recent Commission study. Economists have called for MSCP, as has the European Parliament. MSCP can and should be an important tool to support a shift to rail,” the CER’s policy paper stated.
Financing and funding
In terms of financing and funding, CER proposed to significantly increase the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) budget for transport. “CEF is a key financing instrument for new connectivity infrastructure that bridges missing links and removes bottlenecks on the TEN-T Core Network Corridors,” the association noted. The additional investments should be allocated to further electrifying rail tracks, digitalising railways especially by deploying ERTMS, reducing rail freight noise, funding for railway researches and innovations. At the same time, a scale-up of private investments in rail projects should be facilitated.
Level playing field
To allow the rail sector to compete with other modes of transport on an equal footing, several policies should be provided. The first one is to introduce robust carbon pricing for transport across the EU, for effective incentives to emit less and for fair competition between transport modes. “The price is key, the tool is secondary. For fossil-fuel-driven transport (or inland transport only) it could be a reformed EU ETS (Emissions Trading System) with a minimum carbon price, ideally as a separate ETS until 2030 at least,” CER highlighted. Also, the association called for allowing to tax energy in international aviation or maritime shipping and stopping subsidies for flying including exemptions from kerosene tax or donations for regional airports. Moreover, road charging should become more comprehensive.
Interconnectivity and interoperability
Other priority policies include a few measures from education to sustainable development. Thus, CER recommended the EU and Member States to promote the use of low-emission transport in Erasmus+ programmes, especially in actions targeting European Youth. Also, cross-border interoperability should be improved by implementing the TEN-T Regulation. The other measure is to increase interconnectivity between rail and road. Inter alia, this can be reached by making compatibility of trucks and trailers with combined transport mandatory by law or by developing intermodal cooperation between railways, roads and inland waterways. The last priority in this area is to boost the energy transition and develop sustainable cities.
Some priorities were defined by CER as the additional ones but they could be an important tool for decarbonisation of the rail sector. The association recommended to temporarily waive part of rail track access charges until the transition to MSCP is completed in transport and reduce the customs guarantee burden for rail freight. At the same time, sustainable tourism and low-carbon mobilities should be promoted. “Quick gains in reducing transport GHG emissions could be achieved by triggering behaviour change. The Commission should help align existing carbon footprint approaches so that a unified methodological framework can be established,” the paper declared.
“European railways warmly welcome the plan of the incoming European Commission for a European Green Deal to support the EU’s transition to a net-zero carbon economy by 2050. As the existing green mode of motorised transport, rail can make a key contribution to this transition with a modal shift to clean transport. They are today making concrete proposals on how the Deal can support their contribution. CER stands ready to engage with policymakers to help the European Green Deal deliver clean mobility for all,” CER Executive Director Libor Lochman commented on the association policy paper.