Vice-President and Commissioner for Transport
Using freight to help European transport move to a sustainable future
Launch of the Green Freight Europe initiative
Brussels, 27 March 2012
Ladies and gentlemen
Many thanks for inviting me here today to the launch of Green Freight Europe, an initiative which ties in well with my own vision of where transport could, and should, be heading in the decades to come.
As you know, one of the Commission's top priorities is to prepare Europe's transport sector for several major challenges - climate change, mounting congestion, our overdependence on oil, to name just a few. We need to ensure that it stays competitive, driving economic growth and creating employment.
Working together to share ideas on tackling emissions, new technologies, best practices: this can only be to Europe's common good, helping us collectively to meet our targets on reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050. For that, transport will have to make deep cuts in its own emissions.
This is why I welcome industry initiatives such as Green Freight Europe, to establish a benchmarking tool to measure CO2 emissions from road freight. It will complement the other work already underway, which includes initiatives for the entire logistics chain, transport services and freight.
In the future, oil will become harder to find, more expensive to import and generally more difficult to obtain from unstable parts of the world. At the same time, demand for transport will rise – freight transport alone is expected to grow by 80% by 2050. Since we also have to cut transport's CO2 output, it makes sense for the sector to reduce its oil dependence by developing cleaner options.
Ladies and gentlemen
Freight transport and the accompanying logistics industry represent one of the most dynamic and important sectors of the European economy, accounting for at least 10% of GDP. Europe is home to several logistics companies which are world leaders. Five of the top 10 global logistics companies are European.
We all know freight transport is a heavy polluter, largely thanks to road haulage in the form of heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs). These are transport's second largest source of emissions, above either international aviation or shipping.
Despite some improvements in fuel consumption efficiency in recent years, HDV emissions are still rising, mainly due to increasing road freight traffic. The Commission is working actively to tackle this problem – I'm sure you recall our 2010 Strategy on Clean and Energy Efficient Vehicles.
To cope with the longer term, we need a deep-rooted change in transport thinking. We must make better use of the potential of each transport mode - separately and combined – to improve the door-to-door logistics chain. As you know, the Commission has set targets for shifting a good deal of freight volumes off roads onto cleaner transport alternatives such as rail and waterborne.
Rail is an obvious freight choice as a clean alternative to road. Nine international rail freight corridors are now being developed which we hope will form the backbone of Europe's long-distance land freight transport system.
We recognise there can be large gaps between the transport service required by today's freight and logistics industry and the quality of service provided by European railways. Reliability, rather than speed – the ability to meet loading, departure, arrival and unloading times – is the key to modern cargo distribution.
Let us also not forget maritime and air freight as good alternatives to moving cargo by road. Both are already vital components of many international logistics networks today, although air cargo is perhaps not the cleanest option.
Short sea shipping, offers an environmentally friendly solution for the capacity and mobility issues faced by the EU's freight transport system. With economies of scale available for large transport volumes and lower costs for infrastructure development, its potential is vastly underused.
We have initiatives on Intelligent Transport Systems, using innovation to make transport cleaner and more efficient; the Greening Transport package from 2008; the e-freight project, designed as a vision of paperless freight transport. Or the Marco Polo funding scheme, to ease road congestion by promoting a switch to cleaner transport modes for freight.
Our Green Corridors initiative, launched a few years ago, provides the means to make such a switch. These long-distance freight corridors between hub terminals combine advanced technology and the integrated use of different transport modes to achieve energy efficiency and reduce environmental impact.
Let me offer an example of what could be such a future transport scenario: a truck driven a short distance to deliver cargo to a terminal for onward transportation by train or ship. Then, on arrival, a similar short distance by truck to the end-destination. So the first and last few kilometres are covered by truck – and the rest by rail or sea.
So what is the way forward for freight, to keep it competitive and sustainable?
Firstly, we should optimise energy efficiency by using new vehicle and cleaner fuel technologies. As part of the EU's future strategy on HDV fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, we are exploring ways to improve vehicle efficiency using new engines, materials and design. We are also looking at changing rules on freight vehicle aerodynamics to improve both fuel efficiency and safety.
Consolidating freight volumes will lead to greater efficiency. While moving large volumes of cargo is the strength of railways, barges and ships, consolidating freight is more difficult over short distances. Here, the EU can help, with the right infrastructure: transhipment platforms, consolidation centres, intelligent transport systems. By integrating different transport networks – port/rail connections, for example - the available capacity can be better used.
Ladies and gentlemen
I don't pretend to have all the answers today. But initiatives such as Green Freight Europe are an excellent way forward, demonstrating industry's commitment to find a pan-European approach to the global issue of climate change. We all need to work together to make sure that transport plays its full part - so I wish the initiative every success.
Thank you for your attention.