The BEUC call for more sustainable transport in Europe

A new document has been released by The European Consumer Organisation outlining how the EU can ‘break out’ of fossil-fuelled mobility and introduce more sustainable transport in Europe; another indicator of how Europe is dedicated to making a sustainable change to the transport industry.

The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) has released a document explaining how consumer policy can help clean up transport. The BEUC represents 44 independent consumer organisations from 32 countries. Founded in 1962, their main role is to represent these organisations to the EU institutions and defend the interests of the European consumers.

First and foremost, the BEUC makes sure the EU takes policy decisions that improve the lives of consumers. This covers a range of topics, energy, consumer rights, redress and enforcement, health and sustainability, to name a few. 

Aiming to make consumers confident in the European Single Market, the BEUC “Strive for protection and choice as drivers of consumer markets”. 

Although consumer policy has addressed many challenges over the decades, new challenges have arisen in recent years that the BEUC aim to target. Challenges such as climate change, medicines becoming less available and affordable, and the rise of artificial intelligence. 

To address these challenges, the BEUC want well thought out EU policies to address the challenges and improve the quality of life for current and future generations.

Hoping for change to the transport sector in Europe, the BEUC has produced their document, “Breaking out of fossil-fuelled mobility: How consumer policy can help clean up transport”.

Why sustainability matters to the consumer

The document explains how consumers would be willing to change their transport habits, but there are no policies in place to make this feasible. They are calling for profound changes to the mobility industry by accelerating the shift to electric cars and making public transport more attractive. Not only this, but they also want walking and cycling to be more appealing.

Providing the view of consumer groups, the paper outlines how policymakers can give more consumers access to sustainable modes of transportation. 

Laurens Rutten, a representative from the BEUC, spoke to CleanTech News about the importance of addressing the climate crisis by transforming the transport industry. Rutten stated:

The climate crisis must be tackled with the utmost urgency. And with transport emissions driving this crisis, we need to rethink our daily mobility. What’s difficult is that we are locked into a system that is dominated by fossil fuels.

This is not only bad for the climate – it is also bad for our wallets and the overall quality of our lives. Changing this system requires action by decision-makers on many fronts. We urge the EU and its member states to accelerate the shift to electric cars, to make walking and cycling more convenient and to improve the attractiveness of rail travel.

Decarbonisation and accessibility 

To change our mobility system, the document sets out a wide range of measures that should be adopted involving different stakeholders.

Decarbonising transport is a key part of the document. The BEUC feel that consumers need access to more zero and low-emission transport options. This would be possible through by accelerating the transition to electric cars.

The BEUC has outlined the policies needed to help decarbonise transport:

  • The EU must increase the level of ambition of the 2025 and 2030 CO2 emission reduction targets for cars.
  • They need to introduce a long-term phase-out date for the sales of petrol and diesel cars.
  • There should be a denser and convenient network of charging stations for electric cars to make them more accessible.
  • The use of alternative fuels, such as advanced biofuels and e-fuels, should be reserved for aviation and shipping as they are the most difficult to decarbonise.

Important in making sustainable transport options more accessible, is making them more affordable. According to the BEUC’s document, current transport prices don’t reflect the impact our mobility choices have on the environment.

Suggesting the importance of price signals, positive and negative, the BEUC believe the signals will ensure sustainable transport will be more attractive and affordable. Furthermore, they want an increase in purchase incentives to accelerate the switch to e-mobility.

Positive price signals, the BEUC outlined, should act as a reward for more sustainable behaviour such as car-sharing or the use of public transport.

Making changes for the better

Calling for public transport and rail travel to be much more attractive to the consumer, the BEUC wants an increase in investment for public transport. Furthermore, they want the EU to improve the quality of public transport and improve its service for the consumers’ convenience. By strengthening passenger rights and making single ticketing the norm, public transport will be more attractive to people.

The BEUC believes transport operators need to cooperate with each other. If there was an obligation to share data about their tariffs and real-time timetables to provide innovative services, this will make public transport more convenient.

By rethinking urban design to give more space to walking and cycling the BEUC hopes this will encourage ‘active’ mobility. They want new policies in place where the EU will be able to give more space to pedestrians and cycling that’s safe.

Finally, the BEUC wants the EU to encourage new mobility services that serve sustainability objectives. Transport options such as car-sharing, e-bikes or e-scooters provide alternatives to private car ownership.

The BEUC urge public authorities must impose some rules to make sure these mobility alternatives don’t run solely based on profit. Rather, they want these alternatives to also serve broader sustainability urban mobility objectives.

Europe’s dedication to sustainability

Recognising the importance of rebuilding sustainably from the impact of COVID-19 and tackling climate change, the BEUC want policies to be introduced that will aid everyone. 

Speaking to CleanTech News, Rutten told us of how they want the adoption of inclusive policies, stating: 

“It is very important to be conscious of the needs of different people. Some people may live in a rural area that is not served, or unlikely to be, by trains or other forms of public transport. For them, it might make more sense to switch to electric cars. Urban residents may rather wish to move from their individual cars to cycling.

Here we see the value of adapting the way we plan our cities. Whatever the changes made, they must always be socially equitable. We want to avoid policies that simply drive up the prices for people, without providing solutions, as that could especially end up hurting those on lower incomes”.

This is not the first example of Europe’s dedication to make sufficient, sustainable change post-COVID-19. With pledges to clean up public transport and ‘clean fuels for all’ already in place, Europe is committed to making a change for the better. 

Catherine Gray

Catherine Gray is a Senior Writer at CleanTech News, eager to be part of the important discussion around clean technological advances, promoting and celebrating the things that can be achieved. Catherine is particularly interested in how writing can have an impact on people’s lives and hopes to make her own mark in the CleanTech community through championing new innovative technologies. With huge admiration for companies and individuals with the dedication to make positive advances towards a carbon net-zero future and an advocate for sustainably in day to day life, Catherine looks forward to being actively involved in the CleanTech community.