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.
To underline the need for support in this road transport transition for the automotive regions, the CoR is currently setting up an "Alliance of regions for a just and fair transition of the European Automotive and Supply Industry". With Europe’s automotive sector still remaining a powerhouse of industrial employment (6% of European employment, 2.500 SMEs), the foreseeable transformation of the sector will have huge social and economic impacts on many regions and the political alliance of these regions shall support the claim for a "Just transition mechanism", similar to the Cohesion Alliance and with similar objectives as the just transition for coal regions.
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.