The government’s position on CO2-emissions for lorries is not productive

In the EU negotiations surrounding a reduction in CO2 emissions by heavy-duty vehicles, Luxembourg is one of the parties pushing for a more considerable reduction in comparison to what is on the table.

Carbon dioxide emissions from heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs) must fall by 15% by 2025, according to the proposal by the European Commission, published in May. It also includes a non-binding 30% CO2 reduction target for 2030.

However, both the European Parliament and a number of member states are pushing for more ambitious goals. The Netherlands, France and Luxembourg are on board with Parliament goals, as the environment committee set itself a 35% cut in carbon dioxide emissions from new trucks by 2030, in a vote last month.

With Green Party minister François Bausch in charge of Luxembourg’s Ministry of Transport, no wonder that the Grand Duchy ends up making grandiose promises towards future innovation. The legislative debate makes one wonder: isn’t it disconcerting that the politicians coming up with the rules are not the ones having to put them into practice? According to the manufacturers association, ACEA, a 7% reduction until 2025 is all that can be realistically achieved.

But let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that this industry group is trying to deceive the political will in Brussels, and that manufacturers can realistically achieve the reduction demanded by the European Parliament. If that were so, it would indeed take place. The reason for this is economic: petrol consumption makes up a considerable part of the running costs of a transport company.

Neither the heavy-duty vehicle manufacturer, nor the transport company, have any incentive to burn petrol or emit more CO2-emissions. The economic incentive of the transporter is to reduce his or her energy costs, which is why the zero emissions electric lorry prototype presented by Tesla is so appealing to companies. No manufacturer will lose out on the ability to score a major contract, just to make sure that more petrol is burnt.

But Elon Musk’s Tesla model is a mere prototype, and not anywhere near the mass production necessary to replace the fleets of lorries currently on our streets. A 35% reduction target is meaningless if it can’t be achieved. What is supposed to happen if companies don’t reach the target by the said date? Are transporters supposed to be fined, only to pass the cost on to the retailers, who then pass the cost on to the consumer? To whose gain are artificial goals?

Here lies the true sense of the debate: it’s feel-good policy. If lawmakers and governments were actually interested in reducing CO2 emissions, they would argue for tax cuts for companies that could reinvest more into innovation. Instead, they introduce meaningless policies that will be either frozen if the targets will later be seen to have been unrealistic, or that will have devastating effects on consumer prices. It’s the politics of “we’re doing something” that achieves nothing with a lot of noise.

If that’s the policy, then we should rather hope to do nothing at all.

This article was first published by the Luxembourg Times.

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About Bill Wirtz

My name is Bill, I'm from Luxembourg and I write about the virtues of a free society. I favour individual and economic freedom and I believe in the capabilities people can develop when they have to take their own responsibilities.

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