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The future of sustainable transport

Social responsibility

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25 de marzo de 2021

The earth’s temperature has increased 1.5 degrees since the industrial revolution. This apparently small number, caused sea levels to rise 19 centimeters, 1.3 trillion tons of ice to melt, intense storms, heatwaves, droughts, and many natural disasters. Furthermore, if this continues, global warming will be responsible for losing a third of the world’s animal and plant species by 2050.

Greenhouse gas emissions are the main player in global warming, and they are a direct consequence of heavy transport. The European Green Deal aims to reduce GHG emissions to 90% by 2050 while keeping the EU economy competitive. The plan is designed to take the European Union towards a sustainable future by promoting the effective use of resources by implementing a clean, circular economy, restoring biodiversity, and reducing pollution.

 

The European Green Deal

In Europe, 25% of greenhouse gas emissions are due to transport, out of which 71.7% come from road transportation and 13.9% from aviation. In an effort to reduce greenhouse emissions, the European Green Deal is taking the following measures:

  • Applying new digital technologies (AI, 5G, cloud and edge computing, IoT) to automatize mobility and create smart traffic management systems which will improve efficiency, and help develop cleaner transport. Solutions such as Smart applications and ‘Mobility as a Service' are being created.
  • Encouraging the Single European Sky initiative which targets emission reduction to zero while being cost and flight efficient for consumers as well as companies.
  • Promoting clean vehicles and alternative fuels (biofuel, electricity, hydrogen, synthetic fuels). The Commission is supporting and financing the implementation of refueling and recharging stations. An estimated 1 million stations will be needed by 2025, to service 13 million zero/low-emission vehicles expected to travel on European roads.
  • Boosting multimodal freight transport that combines rail and water transport throughout a journey.
  • Properly assessing the externalities (the negative environmental and health cost of transport) by reducing free airline allowances given by the EU Emission Trading System, an idea which can also be extended in the maritime sector.
  • Implementing the “polluter-pays” rule to European roads
  • Eliminating subsidies for fossil fuel.

 

España Puede - the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan

Covid-19 had significantly disrupted the global economy. The European Commission determined that the European economy works at 25% to 30% under their capacity during the rigid lockdown. However, because of the need for very strict quarantine measures, Spain was hit the hardest throughout the pandemic, and many vital sectors were affected. Despite this, progressive revitalization and growth is expected for 2021.

Under the Next Generation EU program, the European Council expects to finance up to 140 billion euros loans and transfers in the next upcoming six years. This significant impulse will not only help to overcome the current crisis but also facilitate the modernization of the Spanish economy ensuring a green, digital, inclusive, and socially positive recovery. In order to efficiently allocate these funds where they will have the most impact, the Spanish government created the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience plan “España Puede”. The plan is also aligned with the objectives from the UN 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Sustainable Transport

The development of the transport infrastructure is a key factor for increasing productivity, improving competitiveness, and the export capacity of the Spanish economy. Therefore, it is essential that the transport industry functions in a sustainable, reliable, secure, modern, and resilient way. The aim is to significantly reduce the pollution created by transport, especially in cities that tend to be more affected by it. New environmental measures are required to address emissions, air quality, urban congestion, and noise levels. Consequently, improvements in public transport and incentivizing walking and cycling are important in the plan, together with reducing pollution from ships in the ports as well as airplanes. Also, the Commission will revise by June 2021 the CO2 emission legislation to assure that the standards applied to cars and vans are aligned towards the zero-emission mobility goal of the European Green Deal.

The Spanish transport and mobility action plan includes:

  • Establishing low emission zones and charging infrastructure to incentivize the use of electric vehicles. This initiative will strengthen the capital goods industry and the creation of a new business model.
  • Enhancing public transportation and fleet upgrades by producing zero-emission vehicles nationally, offering attractive alternative transport options, and reducing public transport operation costs for companies and authorities.
  • Implementing the 2030 Spain Industrial Policy which promotes modernization and productivity of the Spanish industry services environment using green and digital transitions.
  • Development of the main European corridors.

 

The Future of Sustainable Transport in Spain

By executing these steps, part of the España Puede Recovery Plan that is closely aligned with the Green Deal will help position Spain as a hub of smart and green transport in the years to come. It’s also necessary to revise the TEN-E Regulation (cross-border energy infrastructure approach) that was originally adopted in 2013 to implement projects of common interest, with the purpose of linking energy networks from other member states. Nowadays, these regulations need to be in line with the Green Deal objectives of climate neutrality by 2050 and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. The new changes in regulations will enforce the implementation of new technologies, which support efficient and updated infrastructures like electricity grids, low-carbon gas networks, including hydrogen, and others.

Clean infrastructure will provide resilience for the future of the European economy, especially as part of the Covid-19 recovery plan.

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