Bonn/Berlin (25th Jan. 2021). Vulnerable people in developing countries suffer most from extreme weather events like storms, floods and heat waves, while the impacts of climate change are visible around the globe. Being the deadliest and costliest tropical cyclone in the South-West Indian Ocean, tropical Cyclone Idai was labelled “one of the worst weather-related catastrophes in the history of Africa” by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
The European Union has set itself the target to become climate neutral by 2050. Rail could play a key role in the future transport system because it is clean, safe and reliable, and it could become a symbol for the European Green Deal. A strengthened European rail system could (1) better connect people and businesses in Europe, (2) reduce transport emissions by creating alternative options to road transport and aviation, and (3) give a green boost to the European economy post-Covid-19.
The European Commission is focusing on hydrogen from renewable electricity, to accelerate the decarbonization of the various sectors and to achieve climate neutrality in 2050. What does this mean for the future of energy imports from Russia, currently the largest supplier of natural gas to the European Union? A chance, the authors of this background article find, and elaborate on challenges and first steps on how to leverage this opportunity.
The Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) 2021 published today paints a mixed picture of progress by the European Union (EU) on climate action. While the Scandinavian EU countries, Portugal and the EU as a whole rank high on the index with relatively good indicators, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic stand out as outliers on climate progress within the bloc. In the overall ranking, the EU has improved from the 22nd place last year to the 16th place this year, almost exclusively thanks to a much better rated climate policy. The CCPI analyzes and compares climate protection across 57 countries (plus EU as a whole) with the highest emissions, which together account for 90 percent of global emissions.
Rail is already one of the cleanest transport modes. A renaissance of a truly European rail network could not only make a major contribution to achieving the European Union’s climate targets but could also make Europeans feel and live European integration in daily life. Yet, decades of political focus on road and air travel as well as nationalist thinking have led to a patchwork of national rail systems, which are sometimes in very poor shape. Cross-border rail transport is the sore spot of the European transport system. This policy paper presents eight measures to start off the European rail renaissance.
To become climate neutral by 2050 at the latest, the European Union needs to reduce transport emissions by 90%. Rail as one of the cleanest modes of transport can play a key role here. On 21 September 2020, Germany as the EU Council Presidency is convening a Ministerial conference on rail transport. NGOs from Germany, Poland, France, Spain and Brussels are calling on EU transport ministers to initiatie a European Rail Renaissance. This would be a win for economic recovery, European cohesion and the climate. The declaration asks for concrete measures to make rail cross-border rail transport in Europe more attractive.
The EU energy system is still far from being climate neutral or based on 100 % renewable energies. The currently discussed revision of the guidelines for the Trans-European Networks for Energy (TEN-E), which provide the basis for the selection of the so-called Projects of Common Interests (PCIs), has the potential to set a new course.
Long-term stability and prosperity in the Western Balkans is closely interlinked with the fate of the EU. A positive development in the region and the maintenance of good relations are in the EU’s strategic interest. Geopolitical interests continue to compete in the Western Balkans: China is increasingly rivalling ideas of international solidarity and co-operation offered by the EU. This has become most apparent during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crisis that followed. The new momentum of recently extended financial support should be the starting point for a more serious cooperation with the Western Balkans on the energy transition. The German EU Presidency in the second half of this year should focus on making energy transition partnerships a reality. This is an opportunity that the EU should not miss.
The conflict between the US and China over leadership in the coming world order is becoming more intense - and forcing the EU to clarify its own relationship with China. Co-operation on climate policy can play a key strategic role in this process. It is therefore high on the agenda of the German EU Council Presidency in the second half of this year.
In order to become carbon-neutral before 2050, Germany urgently needs to tackle greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector – the only sector with rising emissions. This policy paper provides an overview of public support for rail in comparison to support for road and air transport, and presents possible solutions for modernising the subsidy and tax system to turn rail into the backbone of future mobility.