Smart Mobility

November 8, 2021

Will Europe’s new and more ambitious Green Deal plan achieve its goals?

The redesigned green recovery plan focuses on building renovation, renewables and hydrogen as well as clean mobility and the circular economy.

(2019) This year the European Green Deal strategy was announced at a moment when the economy was considered to have recovered from the 2008 financial crisis, after experiencing a moderate growth in the past five years. Consisting of an international contract for the signatories to establish commitments with the aim of meeting targets that would help to engage with the climate crisis, the agreement dealt with every aspect of public policy, from recycling to smart mobility, from sustainable building to energy production. The final goal was for Europe to become a climate-neutral continent by 2050.

However, this growth strategy that was starting to pave a more sustainable path for the European economy and society, encountered what would be a huge obstacle to continuing with the plan: the arrival of COVID-19. Some questions started to surface repeatedly: Would the European Green Deal survive the pandemic? Did it make sense to continue with the same targets after considering the crisis the whole world was submerged in?

If one thing was crystal clear it was that a deep economic and societal transformation was needed, and the European Green Deal could help make this successful. So the European Commission took action. They proposed a new recovery instrument: the Next Generation EU, which would count on a powerful, long-term budget of 750 billion euros as well as reinforcement to the long-term EU budget for the period 2021–2027, making a final total €1.85 trillion. The aim would be to build a greener, more inclusive, digital and sustainable Europe and increase resilience, ready for future crises.

The development of a new Green Deal would be a core part in this redesigned programme, that finally decided to focus its efforts on the following areas as the optimum approach for the post-COVID era.

Wind turbines, Photo by Gonz DDL | Unsplash
  • Effective carbon pricing throughout the economy: the idea would be to establish a single price for all sectors. The risk of an industrial delocalization in countries with less strict carbon rules would be countered by a carbon border tax for specific sectors, in order to minimise the risk of carbon leakage. This would mean all products consumed in the EU, regardless of their origin, would be required to comply with carbon reduction targets.
  • Boost the green and digital revolution through sustainable investments: energy-intensive industries like chemicals or steel would be the first sectors to be transformed, transitioning to a more renewable energy system. In addition, the aim is for the economy to become circular, to ensure sustainable processes of production and consumption, that would produce a reduction of waste.
  • New industrial strategy: Carbon neutrality is the target. To make Europe’s industry competitive, the EU’s goal is to become a global innovation powerhouse in energy, mobility and construction technology through investments in research and development and a better organisation in this area among the European countries to take advantage of the economy of scale. This can also be achieved by public procurement to boost innovation and become more competitive on a global scale, through joint environmental standards, common energy taxation and shared support measures.
  • Just Transition Mechanism: A tool to combat the adverse effects of the recent crisis with a fund that will finance those territories with high employment in coal, lignite or oil shale production as well as those areas with greenhouse gas-intensive industries heavily affected by the pandemic.

In words of the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen:

“The recovery plan turns the immense challenge we face into an opportunity, not only by supporting the recovery but also by investing in our future: the European Green Deal and digitalization will boost jobs and growth, the resilience of our societies and the health of our environment’’.

Electric charging point, Photo by Marc Heckner | Unplash

But what about the world of mobility? The European Commission also took the transport sector into account when determining what would be the most compelling initiatives to introduce. Cleaner transport and logistics, the installation of one million charging points for electric vehicles and boosting rail travel and clean mobility were established as the main priorities. Investments in transport infrastructure will also constitute a crucial part of the plan, having established a reduction of 90% in transport emissions as a target by 2050. What actors would play a key role? Multimodal transport options and a shift in citizens’ mindsets to start switching from road to rail when commuting. For this to happen, the evolution of digitalisation is a requirement to stimulate the development of smart mobility and cities.

Additionally, the renewed Green Deal will establish stricter standards for combustion-engine vehicles and will revise the regulatory framework for energy infrastructure which will help introduce innovative technologies and infrastructure upgrades: hydrogen networks, carbon capture and others.

As expected, some international companies and associations have already demonstrated their willingness to collaborate and take action towards the fulfillment of the mentioned objectives:

For example, Volkswagen has published a series of recommendations to establish a framework and drive structural change in the sector. Iberdrola has developed a plan to promote smart mobility putting it into practice with actions like the deployment of 150,000 electric vehicle charging points in Spain. The Platform for electromobility has published a policy paper outlining its vision for a Green Deal and making recommendations to support e-mobility and the European Rail Sector CER, EIM and UNIFE have published a rail’s pledge to play a more important role in implementing Europe’s strategy.

Scooter station, Mika Baumeister | Unplash

From our side, at Meep we believe in the implementation of Mobility as a Service as an ideal way of accomplishing the new goals. We offer optimised multimodal routes and give users the option of choosing the most environmentally-friendly route to reduce the carbon footprint to the maximum. We believe putting the user at the centre of the transportation system can reduce the use of private vehicles and encourage the shift we need to make Europe’s targets a reality. Rethinking the allocation of street space is necessary and we trust in public and private operators working hand in hand to be able to offer society an even wider range of sustainable transport options that go from walking to e-scooters or cycling.

All in all, having passed what we hope will be the worst period of the coronavirus crisis, the European Green Deal has set an example as an essential strategy to continue moving towards a more sustainable future and we will continue to support it. Years will go by before it manages to reach the economic progress it was experiencing before the arrival of COVID-19. Nevertheless, we are sure the importance of preserving its determination to meet long-term climate objectives is a priority important enough for the new Green Deal to continue expanding its green effect all over Europe.

Main image: Scooter station, Mika Baumeister | Unplash