Transport decarbonisation and sustainable aviation

By Marian-Jean Marinescu, Speaker of the EPP Group in TRAN Committee, Chair of Sky and Space Intergroup, (pictured)
Summer 2021

Marian Jean MarinescuGreen Deal puts the field of transport under great pressure. Of course, this does not surprise anyone in this field, as transport has a fairly large contribution to CO2 emissions.

The EU's ambition to become the first carbon-neutral continent is to be praised, as it would mean no other thing than a continent whose citizens breathe the cleanest air on the planet, with positive consequences for their health and life expectancy. However, at the same time, we must be careful that the measures implementing the Green Deal do not jeopardise mobility and connectivity in Europe. Ideas such as the one that I have heard, proposing that on less that 500 km distance not air transport should be available, but only road and rail, are, from my point of view, a trap. Short distances are actually, in my opinion, the perfect opportunity to use electric planes, which could be extremely useful between regional airports.

That is why, during the recent meetings I had with transport officials in the European Commission, I emphasised that the regulations proposed by the Commission must relate to the environment, but also to transport so that competence can be shared in Parliament between the Environment Committee (ENVI) and the TRAN Committee. While ENVI focuses on environmental issues, TRAN takes into account the consequences of environmental measures on industry.

2021 means for the EP many of debates and votes on regulations related to fuels, the revision of transport networks, the new emission levels generated by cars, the trade in certificates in aviation and maritime transport etc. On those very important files TRAN must be able to have a big say.

On the other hand, there is a tendency of putting the aviation into a shadow corner, due to the level of emissions compared to the railway, for instance. We should not allow this. We need to make all modes of transport more environmentally friendly in a sustainable way. The sustainability of the European aviation industry can contribute to the post-pandemic economic recovery of the European Union. The field of aviation is under immense pressure, at a time when the health crisis, the achievement of environmental and digitalization objectives, and a fierce international competition are overlapping.

We already have strong competition, especially with airlines from the Arab countries. Certainly, this competition will increase for European companies as a result of the requirements of the Green Deal, digitalisation and the effects of the crisis caused by the Covid pandemic.

As sustainability is the key word, we need research and a proper budget for the Clean Sky 2 Joint Undertaking, which aims to find technologies that reduce emissions generated by the aviation sector.

In order to maintain the competitiveness of the European aviation industry, each proposed measure to achieve environmental goals and the objectives of digitization must be taken on the basis of impact assesments. And these impact assesments must pursue both environmental and digitalisation goals, as well as maintaining competitiveness and jobs alike.

Clearly, in order to maintain the competitiveness of the European aviation industry, the Union must act simultaneously in two directions: internally, it is about increasing funding for research and innovation – new technologies are essential in the transition to zero emissions and digitalisation – and globally, where the Union needs to have a stronger voice in promoting CORSIA (Carbon Aviation Compensation and Reduction Scheme) and introducing common rules for competitiveness.

But in order to be successful, the EU and the Member States must speak and act with one voice. Unfortunately, there is a tendency to support national interests to the detriment of the European one. The experience I have had during the SES2 + negotiations and the result, embodied in the text of the regulation adopted by the Council, is the best example of this trend. Council voted a SES2 minus instead of SES2 plus !

During the negotiations in the Parliament, many of the tabled amendments related to air traffic management, were in the sense of returning to national approaches, which is, in my opinion, a regress. These nationalist positions have nothing to do with nationalism in the classical sense, but only with the preservation of privileges and money at the national level and the increase of these sums as much as possible. But let’s not forget that the money comes from the passengers, from the citizens. Do we offer them something better if we increase the prices? Will they be able to withstand these price increases?

I would conclude by once again supporting the idea of declaring 2022 as the European Year of Aviation. The Sky and Space Intergroup, whose chair I have the honour of being, has already sent a proposal to the European Commission, and I hope that the proposal also has the support of the Commissioner for Transport, Ms Adina Vălean.

EU has to clearly state that European economies cannot survive without aviation, and citizens need to become aware of how important this sector for each of us is.