In two recent articles we referred to a Communication (February 2015) by the European Commission on its intentions in respect of transport and we boldly raised the suggestion that transport could be the new renewables. The two articles can be found here and here. Of course issues as big as this do not arise from nowhere. This article briefly sets out some of the relevant EU policy and legal developments in the last few years that have helped to put in place the opportunities that are to arise. An article of this length cannot provide detail on each of the previous laws and policies but when taken together, they demonstrate that we are in the early stages of very significant change in the transport sector. In many ways this is quite similar to the initial stages of the growth in the renewables sector.

2009: Promotion of Clean and Energy-Efficient Transport Vehicles Directive 2009/33/EC

This Directive relates to road vehicles and sought to harness the power of public procurement to incentivise the take up of cleaner and more efficient vehicles. It requires public authorities when purchasing road vehicles to monetise (by reference to express methodologies) and take into account the lifetime costs of (1) energy consumption and (2) emissions of CO2, NOX, NMHC and particulate matter.

2009: Emission Performance Standards of New Passenger Cars – Regulation (EC) 443/2009

This Regulation provided for the reduction in CO2 emissions to 130g/km by 2015 and 95g/km by 2020 averaged across a manufacturer’s fleet of new cars. Reductions in emissions of particulate matter and NOX were dealt with under a separate EU Regulation (i.e. the Euro 5, Euro 6 etc. vehicles).

2010: A European Strategy on clean and efficient [road] vehicles (Com (2010) 186)

This Communication by the European Commission sets out a strategy to see the promotion, and eventually market penetration at a material level, of cleaner and more efficient road vehicles. The strategy built on a previous Communication in 2007. The Strategy set out a number of areas which the European Commission would concentrate on in the coming years.

2011: Roadmaps and Plans

In March 2011 the European Commission produced a number of roadmaps and plans relevant to the long term direction of the transport sector in the EU. These were based on two of the main drivers which underlie necessary changes in the transport sector, namely climate change and fuel dependency, with some reference also to public health and productivity implications.

On 8 March 2011 the European Commission published a number of documents relating to the EU’s transition to a low carbon economy and energy efficiency. Two of the documents, a roadmap for moving to a competitive low carbon economy in 2050 (COM (2011) 112/4) and an Energy Efficiency Plan 2011, are of note in the general context of Transport. Analysis by the EU Commission identified that greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector would continue to rise until around 2025 but that with appropriate (and large scale) investment, technology development and deployment (including ICT), electrification of transport and emphasis on efficiency, emissions would fall very significantly thereafter. 

The roadmap recognised the importance of transport and said this “Up until 2025, the main driver for reversing the trend of increasing greenhouse gas emissions in this sector is likely to remain improved fuel efficiency……. in combination with measures such as pricing schemes to tackle congestion and air pollution, infrastructure charging, intelligent city planning and improving public transport. Improved efficiency and better demand-side management fostered through CO2 standards and smart taxation systems should advance the development of hybrid engine technologies and facilitate the gradual transition towards large-scale penetration of cleaner vehicles in all transport modes…”. In synergy with other drivers a “compelling case” was made “for the EU to step up its efforts to accelerate the development and early deployment of electrification, and in general, of alternative fuels and propulsion methods, for the whole transport” system.

This was followed 20 days later by the following transport specific white paper (roadmap).

2011: Roadmap to a single European Transport Area – Towards a competitive and resource efficient transportation system

This white paper is a very important piece of policy for anyone interested in the future direction of the transport sector in the EU. Our earlier comments on this white paper are set out here.

2013: EU Directive – road use charges - user pays and polluter pays

This Directive (2011/76/EU) helped to set up a framework whereby under the user pays and polluter pays principles Member States could use taxation and infrastructure charging to incorporate external costs into charging for the infrastructure, with the aim of increasing efficiency and decreasing pollution.

2012/4: TEN-T

In December 2013 a Regulation (EU No 1315/2013) set out guidelines for the development of the trans-European transport network. Also relevant TEN-T policy was issued shortly prior to this and shortly afterwards. This was all connected with the white paper referred to above. The Regulation and policy are important documents setting out future priorities and direction in the EU. We will comment on these further in a subsequent article but in the meantime and so as to provide an ideas of scale, when referring to one layer of TEN-T, the EU estimated (in 2013) that “The cost of developing EU Infrastructure to complete the TEN-T Core Network requires about €500 billion of which €250 billion would be for the removal of the main bottlenecks up to 2020”.

2013: 7th Environment Action Programme 2014 – 2020

This is a guiding document signed up to by the European Union institutions. It recognises the areas of environment related concern which need to be addressed at the legal and policy levels whilst also recognising the significant economic opportunities which are not being adequately addressed or maximised. The programme is not particularly sector specific but transport is recognised directly and indirectly in a number of the in high level priority objectives which have been set.


Hopefully it will be seen from the above that there has been material development in law and policy over the last few years resulting in firm foundations for the current position (see previous articles). It is this current position that points firmly to very significant and sustained development in the transport sector (not dissimilar to the position at the beginning of the renewables boom).