Tag Archives: emissions

A Nudge Towards Low-Emission Mobility – A Glance at the AFI Directive’s Approach to End Oil Dependence in the European Transport Sector

 

 

 

Sara Kymenvaara, Researcher, Climate Change Law, LL.M.

A FAMOUS metaphor on climate change politics refers to people’s unrelenting driving of SUVs, disconnected from the threat of climate change they are contributing to. Although a lot has changed on the political arena with the entry into force of the Paris Agreement on 4 November 2016, the transport sector’s current state of play, in certain aspects, still corresponds to the metaphor’s dystopian features. The sector plays, however, an important role in achieving the Paris Agreement’s climate change mitigation objectives.

IN THE EU, transport is set to contribute to the overall emission reduction target of 30% by 2030 from 2005-levels. The Commission has also set out a specific goal for the transport sector to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60% from 1990-levels by the year 2050.

HOW TO achieve these ambitious objectives?  Transport remains the only sector in EU where GHG emissions have risen since 1990. Emission reductions achieved by new motor vehicles’ improved energy efficiency as a result of the EU Regulations on passenger cars and vans are forecast to be offset by increased mobility demand. In fact, it seems that the 60% emission reduction target for the transport sector will require a “systemic change” in the transport system and sector as a whole.

ONE OF the key measures to achieve the necessary systemic change is to end the transport sector’s heavy reliance on fossil fuels and start using cleaner vehicles and fuels. To this end, a key EU-level policy instrument is Directive 2014/94/EU on the deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure (the “AFI Directive”), a main legislative measure to implement the Commission’s alternative fuels strategy.

ALTERNATIVE FUELS include, for example, electricity, hydrogen, natural gas and sustainable biofuels, and the AFI Directive’s main objective is to promote the construction of the infrastructure needed for the vehicles running on these fuels. However, installing infrastructure for vehicles using alternative fuels should correspond to the amount and types of vehicles in use. Such vehicles are not currently sold in amounts large enough to develop sufficiently competitive prices. Thus, the combination of high prices and lack of infrastructure discourages consumers from buying them.

THEAFI Directive aims to end this vicious circle by obliging EU Member States to promote the development of their national markets for alternative fuels and set objectives and targets for the related infrastructure. The AFI Directive contains, however, no binding targets for infrastructure and the Member States’ objectives can be revised at a later stage. Thus, the AFI Directive ‘nudges’ rather than obliges Member States to develop markets and infrastructure for low-emission fuels and vehicles.

CONCERNING ELECTRIC mobility, for example, the EU Member States must ensure that an “appropriate” number of public charging points are installed for electric vehicles in densely populated areas by 2020. The “appropriate number” is determined largely by the Member States themselves in relation to their national estimates of, and objectives for, the number of electric vehicles to be registered by 2020.

ACHIEVING THE ambitious emission reduction goals in the transport sector also requires that policy incentives that counteract these objectives are identified and abolished. For long, the tax benefit to diesel fuels in many EU Member States has created such an incentive, let alone the failure to consider diesel’s external costs of air pollution on human health. Over half of all newly registered passenger cars in the EU run on diesel while alternative fuel vehicles currently only account for 4.9% of all passenger cars in use.

THE FIGURES indicate that EU currently is far from achieving the objective of a Low-emission Mobility. Interestingly, however, certain estimates, mainly concerning Norway, predict that electric vehicles are set to conquer the markets extensively in the near future. However, Norway seems to be an exception to the otherwise increasing share of diesel vehicles in the rest of Europe; Norway’s share of electric vehicles in new car sales currently is currently almost 30%, while the same figure is 1.5% for Western Europe. In addition, hardly no other European country has a state budget robust enough to afford the fiscal incentives for electric vehicles that have stimulated their surge in Norway.

AGAINST THIS backdrop, the national objectives and policy measures of the EU Member States to implement the AFI Directive will be essential for cutting oil dependence in the transport sector. If these national policy frameworks are sufficiently ambitious, the AFI Directive’s adaptive strategy may indeed solve the deadlock concerning lack of infrastructure and alternative fuel vehicles’ market penetration – and thus contribute to the decarbonisation of the transport sector within the timeframes set out by the EU’s climate policy objectives.

Introducing the CCEEL Blog and CCEEL Activities on Climate Law

katikulovesiharrovanasseltKati Kulovesi, Co-Director of CCEEL and Professor of International Law

Harro van Asselt, Professor of Climate Law and Policy

THE PAST few weeks have been remarkable for the evolution of international climate law. A month ago, the Paris Agreement obtained the required ratifications both in terms of the number of countries and their share of global greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, the Paris Agreement will come into effect on 4 November 2016. Its Parties will convene for the first time next week in Marrakesh, Morocco. The entry into force of the Paris Agreement and the first meeting of its Parties are major steps forward for international climate law and policy under the auspices of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

BUT IMPORTANT developments have also taken place elsewhere. In early October, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) reached agreement on a global mechanism to offset aviation emissions from 2020 onwards. This decision was taken against the backdrop of rapidly growing global aviation emissions. While not perfect, the new ICAO offsetting mechanism represents important progress after years of stalled negotiations.

FINALLY, ON 15 October 2016 an important new amendment was adopted to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer to phase out hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). These are highly potent greenhouse gases used mostly in air conditioning and refrigerators. Without new regulatory measures, it was feared their emissions would grow, posing a serious threat to climate change mitigation efforts. Indeed, it has been estimated that if implemented, the Montreal Protocol amendment will slow down global warming by up to 0.5 degrees Celsius in the next few decades.

THESE THREE developments are undoubtedly all significant milestones in the evolution of international law on climate change. Just a few years ago the prospects for all three agreements looked gloomy, and the recent developments thus show that countries are increasingly prepared to use international law as an instrument to tackle climate change.

HOWEVER, LOOKING more closely, they also demonstrate that international climate law inhabits an increasingly complex legal and regulatory space with several sites of governance. Moreover, there is a growing emphasis on both national discretion and procedural obligations. The effects these shifts will have in practice will greatly depend on the level of implementation. Critical analysis by the academic community will be needed to understand the relevance of these developments for climate law and governance, and for environmental law more broadly.

AGAINST THIS backdrop, we are launching this CCEEL blog to create a new forum for a critical debate on current developments in climate, energy and environmental law. In this first blog post, we offer a snapshot of our activities in the field of climate law. Future posts will focus mainly on substantive issues and will be published approximately twice a month. In addition to the climate law activities introduced here, CCEEL participates actively in research on, inter alia, international energy law and these activities will be covered in future posts.

MANY OF us at CCEEL are closely following the global climate change negotiations and regularly participate in the UNFCCC process. We also frequently consult various organizations on international climate law and policy. Recent examples include several reports on negotiations for the Paris Agreement and the Agreement’s implementation prepared for the Finnish Ministry of the Environment.

OUR RESEARCH covers both general aspects of the evolution of the UN climate regime, as well as the regime’s various substantive dimensions. Some of our most recent publications discuss the Warsaw Framework to reduce deforestation through REDD+, climate finance after the Paris Agreement, and options for the enhanced transparency framework of the new treaty.

THE SCOPE of climate law is, however, much broader than the UN climate regime, and our research examines to which extent other international legal regimes can contribute to, or distract from, efforts to tackle climate change. Recent research by CCEEL staff specifically analyses efforts to address sectoral greenhouse gas emissions from international aviation and shipping through the International Civil Aviation Organization and the International Maritime Organization as well as interlinkages between climate change, ozone depletion and air pollution.  Another important topic for climate policy and for our research concerns links between international trade law and climate law, including in the context of the World Trade Organization. Our activities are not, however, confined to the international level, but we are also actively following developments related to climate law in the European Union and in Finland.

THE CCEEL also has various research activities related to short-lived climate pollutants. The White project is looking at their regulation in the Arctic region, including how they are being addressed by the Arctic Council. In January 2017, we will be launching a new interdisciplinary research project ClimaSlow, funded through a 5-year grant by the European Research Council. Through this project, we will be looking at ways to strengthen the regulation of short-lived climate pollutants in key developing countries, including China, India and Nepal.

THE INTIMATE link between climate change and energy issues is also reflected in CCEEL’s research activities. We have recently studied links between climate law and renewable energy law in a special issue of Climate Law, guest-edited by CCEEL staff. Moreover, we are interested in examining the international regulation of energy subsidies, and in particular fossil fuel subsidies. Related to this, we are exploring the extent to which – and under which conditions – international institutions can help steer countries away from fossil fuel production.

WITH THIS introduction, we welcome all our students, researchers and the broader climate and environmental law community to follow our blog and engage in interactive discussion through comments.

UPCOMING BLOG POSTS AT CCEEL BLOG

  • Rainforests in the Paris Agreement: Old Wine, New Bottles? – Eugenia Recio, PhD Candidate, CCEEL, UEF Law School
  • Regulation of Short-Lived Climate Pollutants in the Arctic: Interim Outcomes of the White Project, Dr Yulia Yamineva, Postdoctoral Researcher, CCEEL & Dr Sabaa Khan, Postdoctoral Researcher, CCEEL
  • Relevance of the Paris Agreement for International Environmental Law – Prof. Harro van Asselt and Prof. Kati Kulovesi

This post has also been published at CCEEL Blog at CCEEL website.