EU Policy. Lawmakers ditch life-cycle approach to transport emission tally

Michael Sohn / AP
Michael Sohn / AP Copyright Michael Sohn/The Associated Press
Copyright Michael Sohn/The Associated Press
By Marta Pacheco
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MEPs, industry and clean transport campaign group at odds over the inclusion of a life-cycle methodology.


EU lawmakers rejected the inclusion of a life-cycle assessment methodology to account for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the transport sector during a plenary session in Brussels.

So-called CountEmissionsEU, the accounting of GHG emissions of transport services law tabled by the European Commission in July 2023, aims to provide a single harmonised approach to tally emissions arising from vehicle manufacturing, maintenance, and disposal.

A so-called 'life-cycle' approach to assessment of electric vehicles, for example, would account for the impact from raw material extraction to manufacturing, use, and disposal.

The single tally system will be used to compare the carbon footprint of various transport modes, but will only apply to companies who are required by law to do so or who voluntarily choose to report their emissions, according to lawmakers.

"The absence of a full life-cycle methodology will give manufacturers outside Europe an 'unfair price advantage', especially for battery electric vehicles," MEP Barbara Thaler (Austria/EPP), leading the legislative file in the European Parliament, said after the vote on Wednesday (April 10).

"This is an unnecessary and self-inflicted disadvantage which needs to be solved during the inter-institutional discussions,” Thaler told Euronews referring to the negotiations which will now take place between the Council, the Commission, and the Parliament, left for the next EU mandate.

However Thaler greeted lawmakers voting at the same time to abandon the 'tail-pipe' approach — a methodology that only accounts for the fumes from the exhaust — which MEPs voted as outdated in need of revision.

“In a nutshell, the vote resurrected the combustion engine and corrects a historic mistake," Thaler added.

MEP Pascal Canfin (France/Renew Europe), also leading the legislative file in Parliament said the new rules will “incentivise more transparency” of GHG emissions in the transport sector.

“It will help consumers and businesses to make informed choices when it comes to transport options, therefore accelerating the decarbonisation of the sector,” said Canfin.

Brussels-based automotive lobby, the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) said CountEmissionEU can make a “significant progress” in supporting the transport and logistics sector to reduce its emissions, but noted the inclusion of a life-cycle assessment would “significantly broaden” the scope of the Commission proposal and ACEA “does not endorse these proposals”.

“They [proposals] not only preempt the ongoing work on life-cycle assessment at the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) in Geneva, but also create legal overlaps with other legislation related to life-cycle assessment developments,” ACEA’s spokesperson added, referring to the law covering CO2 standards for lorries.

Edwin O’Connell, freight policy manager at the campaign group Transport & Environment (T&E) said a life-cycle assessment framework “will be important in the future”, but the Commission should be given time to study the options in depth instead of “being forced to introduce a dysfunctional mechanism”.

Under 2% of EU companies report emissions of transport operations, whether for a delivery or a flight, O’Connell told Euronews, stressing the law will be an important tool to prevent greenwashing in the transport sector.

The legislative proposal will be followed up by the new Parliament after the European elections on 6-9 June.

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