In 2017, the EU has stepped up initiatives and strategies to reform a transport sector that is struggling to keep up with the movement imposed by its American and Asian competitors. The strengthening of energy transition targets on the international arena opens up an opportunity to change this status quo. Will European companies be able to use this “highway” that opens up in front of them?
Transport or transports : a global reflection on a sector to be modernised
The 2008 crisis reduced the global market share of the European car market from 34% to 20% and not all companies in the sector are yet able to rebound. In this context, the commitments made in the framework of the Paris Agreement on climate change hint at a way out of the crisis, which has been taken up by the European Commissioner for Transport, Violeta Bulc. The aim is to make the development of low- or zero-carbon transport a theme that integrates all EU priorities: mobility and freight, health, environment, connectivity, technological innovation, urban planning, etc. Multiplication of opportunities or risk of dispersal, this integrated approach will have to be effectively coordinated so that all innovations and multisectoral achievements contribute to a common objective without hindering the dynamics initiated by the European institutions.
The European Union in action
In order to limit its emissions and to establish itself as a leader in the production of green vehicles, the European Union has adopted a “Clean Mobility” package, complementing an initial “Europe on the move“. This includes quantified and time-bound targets to help car manufacturers make the transition to cleaner vehicles, an action plan to deploy trans-European infrastructure for alternative fuels and obligations to create alternate means of passenger transport within the territory.
At the same time, and in order to enable researchers and industry to contribute to achieving the intended objectives, the Commission is allocating an ever-increasing budget to initiatives in the transport sector. The Horizon 2020 programme thus multiplies the opportunities to accompany research and innovation in transport, and more specifically for the development of the rail network, inland waterways, cross-border mobility… A call for proposals to create a Knowledge and Innovation Community in the field of urban mobility has also just been launched. It aims to bring together researchers, cities, higher education institutions and innovative companies to develop sustainable solutions for greener, more inclusive, safer and smarter transport systems.
The European Union is playing a game – necessary but risky. Will stakeholders (national governments, manufacturers, researchers, etc.) be able to accept the rules to seize development opportunities and propose a model of success at the international level? However, without ceasing to believe in it, we can doubt it, given the permanent restructuring that European transport companies are undergoing. Seizing this opportunity, however, would allow the EU to play its cards, in order to relaunch the process of implementing the commitments set out during the COP 21.