Fabian Demicoli

Users to pay more for greener transport

People should pay more to travel in future, according to a European Commission paper intended to pave the way to a greener and more competitive transport sector. The Commission's transport white paper, scheduled for publication on 28 March, is meant to steer policy for the next decade and put transport on a path to reduce its carbon footprint.


In the latest draft of the paper the Commission signals that it wants to end exemptions on value-added tax and energy tax for aviation and shipping, as well as removing tax breaks for company cars. Current transport taxes pose "conflicting incentives" with attempts to reduce noise, congestion and pollution, the paper states.

"Transport taxation should become more rational," said a senior Commission official, adding: "We don't think it is likely that transport can continue to be funded through general taxation to the same extent."

Greater use of the ‘polluter pays principle' is also intended to help reduce transport's carbon footprint. The Commission is aiming to cut emissions from transport by 60% by 2050, a target that the transport department agreed in advance with the climate-action department to avoid damaging rows during the internal consultation. Transport is the only part of the economy where emissions have increased since 1990.


The paper sets out ten "benchmarks" for reversing this trend, including a 40% drop in emissions from shipping by 2050, seeing goods going by rail or water for distances greater than 300 kilometres, and most passenger journeys of around 300 kilometres being made by rail rather than air. The paper also envisages that petrol-powered cars should disappear from cities by 2050 and replaced by carbon-free vehicles.

A senior Commission official confirmed that the Commission's modelling was based on getting to an 80% economy-wide reduction by 2050. But the official rejected the charge that this was bad faith on the 95% target. "I don't think that is fair… For the next ten years, the things we would be doing are exactly the same." However, he also said that a higher target for cutting transport's emissions would mean faster phasing-out of fossil fuels.

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