On December 9th, the European Commission presented its ‘Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy’ together with an Action Plan of 82 initiatives. This strategy lays the foundation for how the EU transport system can achieve its green and digital transformation as outlined in the European Green Deal. Concrete milestones for the European transport system are:

By 2030:

  • at least 30 million zero-emission cars in operation in the EU
  • 100 European cities will be climate neutral.
  • To double high-speed rail traffic
  • scheduled collective travel under 500 km should be carbon neutral
  • automated mobility will be deployed at large scale
  • zero-emission marine vessels to become market-ready (for large aircrafts by 2035).

By 2050:

  • nearly all cars, vans, buses as well as new heavy-duty vehicles will be zero-emission.
  • To double rail freight traffic.
  • a fully operational, multimodal Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) for sustainable and smart transport with high speed connectivity.

The declared objectives are ambitious and comprehensive and will hugely transform mobility and the entire economy, work, and everyday life. This is important to keep in mind, as addressing the distributional effects that will go well beyond the transport sector and making sure that these transitions will be fair and socially just, will be decisive for its success. As an example, the shift in the modes of transport as envisaged by the Strategy and the fast-track transition to electric vehicles will have a considerable effect on the 14 million jobs in the European automobile sector.

To implement these goals, the strategy identifies a total of 82 initiatives in 10 flagship areas with concrete measures.

As IndustriAll Europe stresses, although the Mobility Strategy rightly acknowledges that additional annual investments of EUR 130 billion will be necessary into vehicles and the related infrastructure over the next decade, a detailed investment strategy for this is still missing.

For public transport, the Strategy rightly foresees a transformative expansion with a key role in future mobility. The European Transport Workers` Federation (ETF) wonders that while the Commission document briefly mentions the devastating effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on the sector, it does not refer to a viable strategy how to overcome these. While railway networks are expected to become a backbone of a future sustainable mobility, it remains a question how to achieve a doubling of high-speed networks and freight traffic – while also modernising and expanding traditional rail networks after ten years of shrinkage and underinvestment.

Flagship 9 of the Mobility Package “Making mobility fair and just for all” declares the intention to provide affordable, accessible, and fair mobility for all users of transport services, but this is clearly not the case in the real world. Carbon pricing is of key importance for distributional effects and the Commission sees the EU ETS (with the planned extension) as the most important instrument to internalise the cost of CO2 emissions. The often degressive distributional effects of this are supposed to be addressed, as the Commission suggests, by the just transition mechanism, but concrete concepts and proper resources for this are missing.

Both IndustriAll and ETF call for just transition strategies that take sectoral specifics into account and address both employment transitions and distributional effects of the transition. The Just Transition Mechanism will need to be expanded accordingly.

Photocredits seksan