EU Climate Policy – Setting a Course for “E”

Author: Achim Geiger

Aug 30, 2023

European lawmakers are putting on the pressure to get the EU member states on the home stretch in time to implement the Paris Climate Agreement. The number one hope for the transport sector’s transformation is electromobility.

The Paris Climate Agreement, which aims to limit global warming to well below two degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels, is definitely the holy grail of climate policy in the European Union (EU). Of course, the grail has always been a tricky thing – people have an idea of what it looks like, but usually no plan on how to find it. Today, the political players in Brussels see things differently: The right path to this lofty goal is the transformation of a Union that has set its sights on climate neutrality by 2050. And obviously there are big issues to be handled in order to achieve this goal. One of these is the transport sector. And transport policy has a clear focus: The EU Commission’s strategy for sustainable and intelligent mobility stipulates at least 30 million zero-emission vehicles on Europe’s roads by 2030. You might wonder if this goal is realistic? In any case, climate experts are divided on whether Brussels is aiming too high here.
The electric drive as a beacon of hope is still a tender seedling
At first glance, the objective seems plausible. After all, Europe is currently the world’s second-largest market for electric cars after China. Moreover, car manufacturers have certainly had momentum on their side recently – according to industry reports, around 703,600 battery electric cars (BEVs) were newly registered in the Union in the months of January to June 2023 alone, compared with around 457,600 in the previous year. On the other hand, this number cannot hide the fact that electromobility in Europe is still a tender seedling. The biennial report of the Expert Council for Climate Issues in Berlin on the development of greenhouse gas emissions in Germany to date, presented at the end of 2022, is also likely to cause some disillusionment. The market trend leans toward heavier and more powerful passenger cars with comparatively high energy consumption per kilometer. At the same time, there is no sign of any substantial substitution of existing vehicles by new non-fossil fuel ones. The bottom line is that the report calls into question whether focusing on improvements in the technical efficiency of passenger cars will necessarily lead to a better emissions balance.
DEKRA supports the expansion of the EU charging infrastructure
Countries like Germany and France have been relying on electric drives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transport sector for some time. However, experts believe that a comprehensive, high-performance, and safe infrastructure is needed to ramp up e-mobility. Significantly more charging stations for electric vehicles along roads, highways, and at homes and workplaces are required. As a testing and certification organization, DEKRA supports this. DEKRA offers the complete testing scope for EV chargers and has the leading laboratory with the most accreditations and recognitions in the industry in Arnhem, Netherlands. Interoperability, compliance, electrical safety, wireless and electromagnetic compatibility (EMC), reliability, and performance are in demand. In addition, DEKRA developed its own testing and certification standard for the cyber security of charging stations last year.
Germany and France are setting a course for “E”
When it comes to expanding electromobility, the ball is now in the court of climate and transport policy. In Germany, for example, the Electromobility Act (June 2016) is the linchpin for promoting electromobility. In addition to a ten-year tax exemption, it stipulates purchase and innovation bonuses for electric cars, among other things, although a reformed subsidy directive will only allow aid for purely electric and fuel cell vehicles starting in January 1, 2023. In addition, the federal government is funding the expansion of the charging infrastructure and battery production as part of the Climate and Transformation Fund with around one billion euros each. The ambitious goal: By 2030, the German government wants to put at least 15 million fully electric passenger cars on the roads.
France is also pulling out all the stops to switch to CO2-neutral mobility. The legal framework is provided by the Mobility Act and the Climate Act. According to these, for example, there will be a ban on the sale of vehicles with CO2 emissions of more than 95 grams per kilometer starting in 2030. In addition, the government has launched an investment support program (France 2030) for electromobility, which will support the automotive industry in the conversion process with one billion euros. They have set a clear course: By 2030, France will be producing two million e-vehicles per year.
Italy supports the automotive industry in its transition to sustainable mobility
And how does Italy, the fourth-largest car market in Europe, feel about electromobility? The climate law obliges the government to step up its efforts to combat climate change. So far, however, there are only rudimentary signs of a transformation in transport policy. After all, there is an automotive fund worth approximately eight billion euros to help the industry make the transition to sustainable mobility. This fund will also provide subsidies for the purchase of electrified and low-emission vehicles until the end of 2024. Climate experts are critical of this course of action. In a recently published report on Italy’s climate policy, the Milan-based think tank “Ecco” states that the incentive system for the purchase of cars is not suitable for decisively advancing the conversion of the fleet to electromobility. Instead, it finances technologies that are already fully integrated into the market. Incidentally, all the Union’s member states will soon have to lay their cards on the table regarding the status of the energy transition and climate protection: The EU’s Governance Regulation stipulates that the National Energy and Climate Plans must be regularly submitted to the Commission for evaluation. The deadline for the next submission is June 2024.
Laws and regulations on the road to climate neutrality:
  • The starting point is the concept of the “European Green Deal” (December 2019), which stipulates climate neutrality by 2050 as well as the intermediate step of reducing the Union’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 percent by 2030 compared to 1990.
  • The European Climate Act (June 2021) makes the goals of the Paris Agreement binding for the Union and its member states, and confirms the targets for the European Green Deal.
  • “Fit for 55” (July 2021), in turn, is a legislative package that stakes out the legal framework for European climate and energy policy.