10 December 2020

CLECAT welcomes new EC approach to sustainable, smart and future-proof transport in the EU

CLECAT, the European Association of Freight Forwarders, Logistics Service Providers and Customs Agents, welcomes the pragmatic approach and policy directions, outlined in the Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy for Europe, published yesterday by the European Commission. The strategy recognises the important role of freight transport and mobility, which will only continue to increase, in ensuring a switch towards a sustainable, smart and resilient mobility system of the future.

Avoiding forced modal shift policies

The core of the new strategy, replacing the vision of the 2011 White Paper on Transport, is based on the recognition that all transport modes are essential for the EU and must all become more sustainable. However, in line with the EU Green Deal, the strategy also calls for a substantial part of the 75% of inland freight carried today by road to shift to rail and inland waterways. Whereas CLECAT supports the shift towards less carbon-intensive modes of transport, including short-sea shipping, we doubt that the Commission’s modal shift ambition is realistic, given the limited progress achieved over the last decades. It is ultimately business that decides on the mode of transport, and if there are no reliable and economically viable alternative solutions, as well as sufficient capacity in rail and inland waterways, forced modal shift policies will fail.

Greening multimodal freight transport

CLECAT welcomes new efforts to revise the Combined Transport Directive, as this is key to support sustainable green freight transport solutions. However, given the political decisions by Member States to restrict cabotage operations for road transport, also in combined transport operations, we urge decision-makers to look beyond their borders and to support business in its wish to use more combined transport. CLECAT notes with interest that the Commission considers incentive mechanisms in a revised combined transport proposal, which should be based on impartial performance monitoring, according to a European framework to measure transport and logistics emissions. We therefore urge the Commission to base such a framework on the upcoming global ISO standard for the quantification and reporting of GHG emissions of transport and logistics operations, respecting the full-cycle ‘well-to-wheel’ approach.

Encouraging zero-emission transport

The Commission intends to realise zero-emission transport via stricter CO2 emission standards and investment in more charging options for zero-emission trucks and / or hydrogen fuelling stations. CLECAT believes there needs to be a clear pathway towards this goal, as business needs certainty when making investments in alternatively fuelled vehicles. A clear and concrete roadmap is required for a complete infrastructure roll-out, favouring the most cost- and resource-efficient solutions, also recognising the bridging technologies.

By 2030, the Commission also wants planes and ships to start using alternative fuels. CLECAT supports the switch to sustainable alternative fuels for these ‘hard to abate’ transport modes and also the market-based measures for charging. Indeed, the Commission will pursue a comprehensive set of transport pricing measures to encourage a switch towards greener options, such as emission trading, infrastructure charges, energy and vehicle taxes. In doing so, the Commission should nevertheless be careful to avoid any possible double-charging burden for forwarding, transport and logistics companies.

Building smart and sustainable transport systems

The Commission is committed to stimulating digitalisation and innovative technologies, which the logistics sector supports, considering that their potential to enable increased efficiency and productivity of transport and logistics operations can have a substantial leverage in reducing their environmental impact. Sustainability, digitalisation and resilience are therefore rightly the most important pillars of the strategy that all go hand in hand.

Empowering cities to go emission-free

The Commission wants the 100 largest cities in the EU to become emission-free by 2030. CLECAT would welcome more harmonisation with respect to freight movement in urban areas, as the current patchwork of local policies and criteria is not helpful for companies or manufacturers aiming to bring cleaner urban vehicles to the market. However, the individual differences and infrastructure capacity in cities must be respected. This ambition would also require investment in more multimodal hubs.

Equipping workforce with a future-proof skillset

CLECAT recognises that more resilient and increasingly digitised and automated logistics sector requires a qualified workforce with well-developed digital skills. Therefore, the idea of the Commission to come forward with initiatives to increase the attractiveness of the logistics sector is highly welcomed. Finally, since the pandemic is ongoing, the COVID-19 recovery investments are needed to safeguard jobs and support the long-term sustainable solutions for decarbonising the freight transport sector. 

For more information: 

Mrs Nicolette van der Jagt
Director General