Making road transport more sustainable is one of the central elements of the 'Fit for 55' package which was published in July 2021 and contains a proposal that all new passenger cars and vans need to be zero-emission vehicles by 2035. This means that conventionally fuelled cars (Diesel/Petrol) would be phased out which would have a major effect on the European automotive industry and the automotive regions.
At the same time, the uneven deployment of alternative fuels re-fuelling infrastructure needs to be addressed as a priority and the European Commission has also tabled a proposal for a Regulation on this topic. The CoR' opinion on these two legislative proposals highlight the main aspects for cities and regions:
• the provision of alternative fuels and re-charging infrastructure in all regions (urban, rural, peripheral, islands,) is of crucial importance for territorial and social cohesion.
• the new "zero-CO2 emission standard" for cars will have a huge social and economic impact on the automotive industry and regions in the Union and needs to be addressed through a just transition framework.
While the opinion does not question need to set strict road vehicle emissions standards in order to achieve the objective of carbon neutrality, it requests a just transition mechanism for the automotive regions, based on a thorough territorial impact assessment, together with policy and budgetary support for those regions most affected.
Concerning the deployment of alternative fuels refuelling infrastructure, the most important aspect with the highest territorial dimension is the availability of interoperable infrastructure throughout the Union. Currently deployment is very uneven in the EU. It is crucial that in the provision of alternative fuels infrastructure no region is left behind and that the transformation of road transport and the automotive sector will be a just and fair one.
The Opinion has called for a "Just Transition Mechanism" and for a real territorial impact assessment. As a consequence, the CoR has initiative the "Automotive Regions Alliance". The Alliance is a political network of regions with a strong automotive and supply industry sector which will be affected by the transition towards zero-emission road transport. It was launched at the June 2022 Plenary of the CoR and demands a just transition for the regional automotive eco-systems while not questioning the need to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from road transport. The just transition framework must ensure economic and social cohesion in every European automotive region through budgetary and policy support measures and joint transition planning. The first Annual Conference has been held on 17 November 2022 in Leipzig and has received widespread media coverage and one of the biggest impacts of the CoR in that respect so far.
Regulation on strenghtening CO2 emission Standards for cars and vans
Although originally considered one of the most controversial of the EU’s Fit-for-55 legislative proposals (phasing out of internal combustion engine cars by 2035), the CO2 standards file is now the first of the package to be agreed upon: the trilogues have finished on 27 October 2022 with an agreement between EP and Council but without the CoR receiving any information on the documents produced and shared between the co-legislators. The discussion on "e-fuels" after the trilogue agreement, triggered by Germany, has led to a delay in the legislative process. However, on 28 March 2023 the Council finally approved the text.
The final legislative text includes a specific mentioning of the CoR's Automotive Regions Alliance as the key partner for assessing the progress and financial needs for a just transition of the automotive regions. In the first report of the European Commission (due by end 2025), the focus will be on funding gaps and other needs for a just transition and the report should "build on ongoing initiatives such as […] the Automotive Regions Alliance of the Committee of the Regions". The CoR becomes therefore a key player in managing a just transition pathway for the automotive regions. The ARA is also part of the "Route 35" platform to anticipate the transition for automotive regions. The platform has been organised and is chaired by Commissioner Thierry Breton.
Regulation on the deplyoment of Alternative Fuels Infrastructure
In order to continue fulfilling our advisory role while the dossier further develops in the interinstitutional negotiations, the CoR requested access to the negotiation documents and received this information from the Council's General Secretariat on 16 February 2023. This is the first time the CoR has been associated with the legislative process at this final stage and we have prepared a detailed follow-up letter that the rapporteur sent to the involved parties. The final trilogue agreement from end of March includes many positions that the CoR had expressed in its opinion and we hope that a similar exercise could be successfully repeated for other key legislative dossiers in the future.
THE EUROPEAN COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS
- welcomes the intention to address vehicle emissions standards in order to achieve the objective of carbon neutrality. Cars and vans represent the biggest share of CO2 emissions in transport in absolute terms, and average emissions from internal combustion engine cars are rising.
- considers the rollout of charging and refuelling infrastructure for alternative drive systems, in conjunction with the new CO2 emission standards, and in particular the ramping up of electro-mobility, to be a key condition for achieving the climate targets at European, national and regional level. The EU's existing obligations relating to recharging and refuelling infrastructure requirements are not sufficient for this purpose.
- stresses that the transformation of the European automotive industry towards zero-emission vehicles is the most comprehensive structural change in the sector to date, with a multitude of impacts on workers, suppliers and car manufacturing groups in Europe and therefore calls on the European Commission to initiate a holistic and long-term strategic dialogue on the transformation of the automotive sector in the EU with all relevant stakeholders.
- urges the Commission to establish a "European Mechanism for a just transition of the automotive sector and regions" which should draw on European funds and make sure it addresses challenges in the regions most affected by the transformation and reaches all SMEs in the supply chain to adapt to the changes in the automotive value chain.
- underlines that research and mapping of the employment consequences and trends of a shift towards a climate-neutral automotive industry must be carried out. The Commission should thus evaluate the territorial impact of this Regulation on the automotive industry, workforce and regions.