EC sets new targets for reducing emissions from heavy transport


Green Deal: The European Commission is proposing a target of zero emissions from 2030 for new city buses and a 90 percent reduction in emissions for new trucks by 2040.

The European Commission has proposed ambitious new CO2 emission targets for new heavy vehicles for the period after 2030. The targets are intended to help reduce carbon emissions in the transport sector, as trucks, city buses and long-distance buses account for more than 6 percent of total EU greenhouse gas emissions and more than 25 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from road transport.

With tighter emission standards, this segment of the road transport sector is expected to contribute to the transition to zero-emission mobility and the achievement of the EU's climate and zero-emission goals.

- Our climate and zero-emission targets, are achievable provided that all parts of the transportation sector actively participate in the process. By 2050, almost all vehicles on our roads must be zero-emission. Our climate law requires it, our cities are demanding it, and manufacturers are already preparing for it. With today's proposal, we will ensure that new trucks pollute less and less, and that more zero-emission buses drive on the streets of our cities. Fighting the climate crisis, improving the quality of life of our citizens and increasing Europe's industrial competitiveness go hand in hand - said Frans Timmermans, executive vice president for the European Green Deal.

Levels of reduction

The Commission has proposed phasing in stricter CO2 emission standards for almost all new heavy vehicles with certified CO2 emissions compared to 2019 levels, specifically:

  • 45 percent emission reductions from 2030;
  • 65 percent emission reductions from 2035;
  • 90 percent emission reductions from 2040.

To encourage faster deployment of zero-emission buses in cities, the EC is also proposing that all new city buses become zero-emission from 2030.

The proposal will also have a positive impact on the energy transition, experts say, in line with the goals of the European Green Deal and the REPowerEU plan, as it will lead to lower demand for imported fossil fuels and increased energy savings and efficiency in the EU transport sector. It will benefit European carriers and users by reducing fuel costs and total ownership costs, and ensure a wider diffusion of more energy-efficient vehicles. It will also improve air quality, especially in cities, and the health of Europeans.

In addition, it is a key sector for supporting the European cleantech industry and increasing international competitiveness. The EU is a market leader in truck and bus manufacturing, and a common regulatory framework helps maintain this position in the future.

The revised standards are intended to send a clear, long-term signal to guide EU industry investment in innovative zero-emission technologies and the development of charging and refueling infrastructure.

Rising emissions

Emissions in the heavy-vehicle sector have been rising year after year since 2014, with the exception of 2020 - due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They are rising particularly rapidly in the freight sector. This is mainly due to the increasing demand for road transport, which is expected to continue growing in the future. In 2019, emissions from freight transport were 44 percent higher than those from the aviation sector and 37 percent higher than those from maritime transport.

The vast majority of heavy vehicles in the EU fleet (99 percent) are currently powered by internal combustion engines, fueled mainly by imported fossil fuels such as diesel. This increases the EU's energy dependence and the current instability of the energy market.

Current heavy vehicle emission standards date from 2019, but are no longer in line with the EU's climate goals. The current regulations do not send a clear enough long-term signal to investors and do not reflect the new realities in the energy sector or the rapid changes in the heavy vehicle industry around the world. The proposed new CO2 standards are in line with the EU's increased climate ambitions, the "Ready for 55" package and the Paris Agreement.

For these standards to be implemented, investment in zero-emission vehicles and charging and refueling infrastructure must be targeted. That's why the Commission has already proposed a regulation on alternative fuel infrastructure, providing for the development of the necessary charging infrastructure to support the green transition of the heavy vehicle sector.

In particular, the Commission has proposed installing charging and refueling points at regular intervals on major highways: every 60 km for electric charging and every 150 km for hydrogen refueling. The Commission is working intensively with co-legislators to complete negotiations on these proposals.