Could you tell us about the tasks and responsibilities of the TRAN Committee?
The Committee on Transport and Tourism, which I chair, must respond to the concerns of European citizens. The expectations are high and we must act to make our mobility more sustainable, more inclusive, safer and more connected. Transport accounts for a quarter of European greenhouse gas emissions and is also responsible for the chronic problem of air pollution.
Transport should now be one of the main priorities of the European Green Deal. The Transport Committee will therefore try to regulate sea and air transport emissions. Rail freight will have to be relaunched, a rail renovation plan will have to be initiated, and legislation on passenger rights should be consolidated for carrying bicycles on trains.
We need to look at sustainable urban and rural mobility in order to create alternatives to private car use. We should also augment public transport, bike paths, waterway transport, walking, and car sharing.
We must also anticipate a new transformation policy in the automotive industry. It is necessary to contribute to the professionalization of employees on a new energy mix and the leaving behind of thermal engines.
In order to carry out these projects, it is our responsibility to implement fair investments and trigger the dynamics of new levers of action, such as fees for heavy goods or a tax on kerosene.
Finally, the ecological transition can only be effective in transport and accepted in society if it is accompanied by social justice measures, with a close attention to the right to mobility for all citizens, depending on their finances and territory.
To meet the requirements of the future, we must also address the challenge of digitizing the sector.
You are currently working on air transport, what will be your recommendations and proposed alternatives?
The aviation sector has so far escaped numerous regulations, but its exponential growth means that its growing impact on the climate can no longer be ignored.
The aviation sector is growing rapidly; in 2000, 1.6 billion tickets were sold, compared to 4.3 billion in 2018. This symbolizes a multiplication by more than 2.5 in less than 20 years. The IATA (International Air Transport Association) again plans to double the number of tickets sold between 2017 and 2037, to reach 8.2 billion per year by that date.
It is estimated that aviation, through its CO2 and other emissions, is responsible for 5% of global warming. When you know that every tenth of a degree counts, it becomes a crucial subject. These emissions have doubled since 1990, and, given the growth of the sector, if we do not act, they risk doubling again.
Flying is the mode of transportation that has the greatest impact on the climate per kilometre travelled.
It is absolutely necessary for aviation to contribute to the fight against climate change and therefore cease to benefit from a special regime. It is today in a position of unfair competition with cleaner means of transport. Concretely, we must implement our strategy in several ways:
Application of the polluter-pays principle: taxation of kerosene and extension of the ETS to the aviation sector (in particular the abolition of free quotas). This can get us 27 billion euros per year at European level by taxing kerosene at 33 cents per litre;
Cease subsidies to airports;
Apply VAT to airline tickets.
It is simply a matter of bringing aviation into normal competition with other means of transport, it is far from revolutionary!
However, alternatives do exist and are just waiting to be developed. The first should be the development of the night train. This is extremely useful for distances of 750 to 1,500 kilometres, which represent around 50% of flights to and from France. Our European neighbours are relaunching railways and so should we!
What is your position on the conversion of the automotive industry? What is our progress in Europe?
The automotive industry is extremely significant in Europe, with 12 million employees. These jobs are concentrated in a few territories, in the North and East regarding France for example. Today, this industry is faced with regulations that are absolutely necessary to improve air quality and limit our carbon footprint, which will force it to reinvent itself.
To be honest, at this stage, manufacturers are not facing their responsibilities: they have known for years that diesel will have to disappear, that electric is a solution for the future and instead of working to support the employees and sites concerned, they produce SUVs. I’m afraid of a social and territorial breakdown in the years to come, due to manufacturers’ unpreparedness. I will launch an initiative to reflect on this issue. The ecological transition must be fair and, in the automotive sector in particular, it is first and foremost the manufacturers’ responsibility to ensure it.
The circular economy and recycling is one of the main challenges of the Energy & Climate plans of member countries, what is your stance in this area? And what are the social and societal challenges?
The field of transport, and in particular the automotive field, is a major topic on several levels. Faced with the scarcity of resources, the automotive industry has no other choice than to implement a new life cycle for vehicles, the different stages of which will be those of the circular economy: recycling, remanufacturing, reuse. To reduce dependence on natural resources, replacing or reducing the use of materials is not enough. Manufacturers must also use recycled materials.