European Parliament says rail has a key role in tackling climate change

Posted: 17 March 2010 | | No comments yet

The European Parliament’s Environment Committee has emphasised the importance of more environmentally‐friendly transport.

The European Parliament’s Environment Committee has emphasised the importance of more environmentally‐friendly transport.

Voting in Brussels on 16 March, members of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee emphasised the importance of more environmentally‐friendly transport when adapting the European Union’s policies to climate change challenges. The European rail sector particularly welcomes provisions to encourage the use of lower carbon modes of transport, and to ensure that all modes abide by the “polluter pays” principle.

The Environment Committee was considering the European Commission White Paper, “Adapting to climate change: Towards a European framework for action,” which presents a framework and defines a strategy within which the European Union and its member states can prepare for the impacts of climate change.

In line with the views of the association of European Rail Infrastructure Managers (EIM) and the Community of European Railways and Infrastructure Managers (CER), the members of the committee supported an amendment regretting the fact that the White Paper does not pay enough attention to transport, despite the fact that the sector accounts for 27% of EU greenhouse gas emissions. Transport is also particularly sensitive to extreme climatic events. The amendment calls on the Commission to bring forward a proposal for a “European climate and transport package” as soon as possible.

The members of the committee called on the European Commission to use modes of financing, which, to be coherent with the adaptation strategy, should help mitigate climate change. In line with what Europe’s railways have long been calling for, the committee highlighted the fact that modal shift is necessary to achieve the decarbonisation of transport, while also stressing the fact that all modes will have to gradually internalise their external costs. The parliamentarians explicitly stressed the need to quickly adopt the Eurovignette Directive, which would allow governments to charge trucks for their external costs. This proposal is currently stalled in the legislative pipeline.

The rail sector associations were also pleased to note that the members of the Parliament called for revenues generated by the EU Emissions Trading System to be dedicated to supporting the development of sustainable modes of transport, such as rail.

Leonardo Dongiovanni, Political Advisor at EIM, said “We welcome the fact that the European Parliament has linked climate change adaptation to mitigation, giving high priority to modal shift and internalisation of external costs. These policy options should be at the core of the future European transport policy.”

Matthew Ledbury, Environment Adviser of CER, said “We are glad that MEPs recognise that the adaptation of transport infrastructure to the challenges of climate change is a priority. We also welcome that they clearly point out the need to charge for external costs in transport on the basis of the ‘polluter pays’ principle. A revised Eurovignette Directive would result in fairer competition between transport modes and enable the rail sector to fully contribute to a greening of transport.”

EIM and CER hope that this positive attitude will be reflected in the plenary vote and in other upcoming European legislative initiatives, in particular the debate on the Future of Transport. Infrastructure Managers and railway companies are aware of the pressing need to adapt to the effects of climate change and have begun to take steps to address the issue.