While some of the historically most polluting sectors such as the energy sector or industry have gradually reduced emissions, the transport sector is responsible for more than a quarter of CO2 emissions in Europe, and 34% in the Basque Country and its trend continues to rise. In addition, it generates other important impacts such as noise, pollution, habitat fragmentation or soil sealing.

Distribution of Basque Country emissions by sector (Source: Basque Government, 2018)

Europe has presented the “Smart and Sustainable Mobility Strategy” together with an Action Plan for 82 actions, in line with the objectives pursued in the European Green Pact, to achieve a 90% reduction in transport emissions by 2050, through an intelligent, competitive, safe, accessible and affordable transport system. Reaching that goal “400,000 people a year would stop dying prematurely due to poor air quality” says Frans Timmersman, Vice President of the European Commission.

The ambition of the goal is such that it is hard to imagine a scenario so far removed from the current scenario. Let us remember that since 1990 the trend of transport emissions has increased considerably, first surpassing the Basque industry, and then the energy sector (2018). The reality is that transport is a very difficult sector to decarbonise given the current circumstances, where combustion vehicles such as cars, vans and trucks continue to dominate the travel alternatives without leaving room for other less polluting forms of mobility such as electric vehicles or public transport. With a fleet of private vehicles in crescendo, it appears that the improvement in the energy efficiency of vehicles will not be enough to achieve the reduction figures that are being proposed from Europe.

Sectoral evolution of direct and total GHG emissions in the Basque Country (Source: Basque Government, 2018)

Making the necessary pieces of the puzzle to put together a decarbonised transport model was a challenge for everyone that Europe seems to have resolved and included in this new Strategy. Through a set of measures around electrification, increased use of trains and renewable fuels for the mobility of goods, improvement of interurban mobility through high-speed rail traffic and cycling infrastructure, together with new incentives and prices on carbon that reflect the real value of mobility, all supported by a series of actions to promote innovation through a commitment to artificial intelligence.

With this strategy, Europe presents its commitment and proposes an important revolution in the sector as it seeks to influence all forms of mobility to achieve the following milestones:

By 2030:

  • At least 30 million zero emission cars will be in operation on European roads
  • 100 European cities will be climate neutral.
  • High-speed rail traffic will be will double across Europe
  • Collective journeys scheduled for journeys of less than 500 km must be carbon neutral.
  • Automated mobility will be implemented on a large scale.
  • Zero emission marine vessels will be ready for the market

By 2035:

  • Large zero emission planes will be market ready

By 2050:

  • Almost all new cars, trucks, buses and heavy-duty vehicles will have zero emissions.
  • Freight traffic by rail will double.
  • A Multimodal and fully operational Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) for sustainable and intelligent transport with high-speed connectivity.