Official Journal of the European Union

C 195/26

Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on the Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the promotion of clean road transport vehicles

(COM(2005) 634 final — 2005/0283 (COD))

(2006/C 195/07)

In a letter of 1 March 2006, the Council asked the European Economic and Social Committee to draw up, in accordance with Article 175(1) of the EC Treaty, an opinion on the abovementioned proposal.

The Section for Transport, Energy, Infrastructure and the Information Society, which was responsible for preparing the Committee's work on the subject, adopted its opinion on 2 May 2006. The rapporteur was Mr Ranocchiari.

At its 427th plenary session, held on 17-18 May 2006 (meeting of 17 May), the European Economic and Social Committee adopted the following opinion by 137 votes to one with four abstentions.

1.   Conclusions and recommendations


More than 75 % of the population of the European Union lives in urban areas. Urban transport therefore represents a very high percentage of the transport sector as a whole, influencing the parameters of air quality (carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, particulates, ozone precursors) and hence local pollution, as well as climate change (CO2 emissions).


There have been a succession of legislative and research measures in recent years, both in a European context and in that of international cooperation. The main aims pursued have been to improve energy efficiency and to reduce pollutant emissions as well as dependence on oil.


Thanks to the standards regulating vehicle emissions, known as ‘Euro’ standards, pollutant emissions due to vehicle traffic have been drastically reduced over the last 25 years.


Moreover, thanks to models such as CAFE (Clean Air for Europe, 2005), it has been possible to estimate a further reduction of 5 % in pollution levels for 2020.


The directive under consideration seeks to promote a sustainable urban environment: the proposal provides for a fleet of ‘clean’ heavy duty vehicles, which, as well as saving energy, would emit a smaller quantity of pollutants.


In particular, the proposal includes an obligation on public bodies to allocate a 25 % quota of their annual procurements of heavy duty vehicles above 3.5 t weight to clean vehicles. The Commission proposal also allows for the possibility of a later extension of this requirement to the other categories of vehicle acquired by public bodies.


Alongside an initial investment by the public bodies, timely implementation of this directive would encourage rapid development and wide distribution of clean technologies.


The directive, if approved, would offer the many local authorities who find themselves forced to impose restrictions on the free movement of vehicles an alternative solution capable of achieving positive results in terms of environmental, social and economic impact.


Cities such as Paris, Montpellier, Frankfurt, Helsinki and others, which have invested in a fleet of clean vehicles (buses or refuse collection lorries powered by natural gas), have achieved good results and are going on to acquire more vehicles to enlarge the available fleet.


Shortening the timescale for action, diversifying efforts and acting at various levels to reduce the overall environmental impact (Euro standards on control of vehicle emissions, measures aimed at improving energy efficiency and at security as regards energy supply and diversifying energy sources) must lead to social benefits and technological and economic progress.


The EESC therefore hopes that the directive can be adopted in 2006, complementing the other measures already taken by the European Community and new measures which are in the process of being approved.

2.   Reasons and legal context


On 21 December 2005 the Commission presented this proposal for a directive on the promotion of clean road transport vehicles (1) (legal basis: Article 175(1) TEC; codecision procedure).


The main objectives of the directive are:

to reduce pollutant emissions produced by the transport sector;

to encourage the market in clean vehicles, particularly heavy duty vehicles weighing more than 3.5 t.


The directive lays down that public bodies are required to allocate a minimum quota of their annual procurements of heavy duty vehicles (above 3.5 t) to vehicles meeting the ‘enhanced environmentally friendly vehicle’ performance standard. The minimum quota laid down is 25 % and concerns the replacement of heavy duty vehicles to allow the gradual introduction of environmental criteria in the procurement procedure and prepare public bodies and industry for a possible extension of these requirements to other categories of vehicle.


In the long term, the directive will lead to an improvement in the environmental performance of the entire fleet through economies of scale, a reduction in costs and wider deployment of enhanced environmentally friendly vehicle technologies.

3.   Definitions and explanations


The heavy duty vehicles covered by the directive are vehicles weighing more than 3.5 t, such as buses and utility vehicles (e.g. refuse collection lorries).


The term ‘clean vehicle’ signifies ‘enhanced environment-friendly vehicle’ as defined in the EEV (Enhanced environment-friendly vehicle) European performance standard (2), which lays down strict limits on CO2 emissions and on harmful emissions of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons, particulate pollutants and ozone precursors:

















The Member States have always been encouraged to introduce tax concessions for those vehicles which have stricter limit values for emissions than those laid down in the current Euro 4 standard (3), as an incentive to bringing cleaner, more efficient vehicles onto the market.


The public bodies to which the directive is addressed are the national, regional or local authorities, bodies governed by public law, public enterprises and operators bound by contracts with public bodies for the provision of transport services.


The obligation to allocate a minimum quota of annual procurement to clean vehicles applies to both purchasing and leasing of heavy duty vehicles.


Promoting the use of EEVs is also in line with the Commission's recent proposal for a directive on car taxation (4): the latter would in fact be partially based on CO2 emissions to encourage the purchasing of cleaner, more energy-efficient vehicles, such as those using biofuels, natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), electrical or hybrid motors.


The increased use of biofuels for vehicles is also an objective of the biomass action plan (5), which the Commission recently adopted and followed up with a communication on biofuels (6).


This proposal therefore forms part of a wide range of measures designed to deal with the constant increase in greenhouse gas emissions which jeopardise the Community objectives on climate change, the increase in local pollution phenomena due to vehicle exhaust emissions which have a negative effect on citizens' health, and the question of energy efficiency of fuels which makes Europe still heavily dependent on oil.


In the Green Paper on energy supply (7) questions linked with the growth of the transport sector, high energy consumption, CO2 emissions and oil dependence are analysed to identify measures which could influence the demand for alternative technologies and fuels and promote a generation of clean vehicles; the same questions are taken up in the White Paper (8) on European transport policy up to 2010.


In the communication on alternative fuels for road transport (9) and the subsequent directive on the promotion of biofuels (10) the diversification of energy sources is regarded as an effective system for reducing dependence on oil, CO2 emissions and local pollutant emissions.


The communication reviewing the EU strategy for sustainable development (11) covers the aspects related to climate change. This strategy explicitly proposes the development of a market for cleaner vehicles, within a programme of traffic management in urban areas involving the promotion of ‘eco-innovations’ and the adoption of ‘clean’ buses.


The Green Paper (12) on energy efficiency proposes concrete measures, among them the use of public procurement to develop a market for vehicles which are less polluting and more energy-efficient than conventional vehicles.


Production and use of vehicles which comply better with atmospheric pollutant limits represent an essential factor in the attempt to achieve the objectives set by the relevant European legislation (13).


In the context of the Thematic Strategy on air pollution (14), whereby the Commission intends to consolidate the relevant current directives, the need is once more emphasised to recommend that public bodies implement them annually by acquiring a minimum quota of clean energy-efficient vehicles.


The European Parliament has expressed its support for a Community action plan to improve energy efficiency in the transport sector, particularly stressing the importance of targeted public procurement programmes to reduce the price of energy-efficient vehicles and make them competitive with conventional technologies (15).


The European Council has advocated measures to integrate environmental management and sustainable development into transport policy (16).

4.   General comments


This directive, if adopted, would introduce a range of obligatory measures on public procurement, with a view to speeding up the increase in market demand for ‘clean’ vehicles. At the same time, the proposal promotes the introduction of clean energy-efficient vehicles through a technologically neutral approach, as recommended by the Member States (17).


The procurement obligation for heavy duty vehicles exceeding 3.5 t weight, as compared with voluntary agreements or other types of regulatory measures, has advantages in terms of the cost/benefit ratio, the economic aspects of the competitiveness of European industry, and above all the environmental impact.


The 25 % quota of procurement corresponds to 10 % of the whole market, a percentage which is high enough to influence the development of the market for clean vehicles and to encourage economies of scale, thus keeping investment costs at an acceptable level.


The number of vehicles to be covered by this proposed directive is estimated at about 52 000, comprising 17 000 buses and 35 000 lorries. Introducing 25 % clean vehicles would thus correspond to 13 000 EEVs per year. The choice of a specific replacement sector (buses, refuse collection lorries or others) is left to the public bodies, which are entirely free to decide the specific replacement quotas.


Procurement for the systematic introduction of clean vehicles would encourage the development of the automotive industry and guarantee the expansion of a strong market for heavy duty vehicles in Europe, increasing its competitiveness.


Paris, Montpellier, Frankfurt and other cities already have fleets of clean vehicles and are preparing to enlarge them in view of the positive environmental and socio-economic results achieved.


The mandatory introduction of a percentage of EEVs in the fleet of heavy duty vehicles represents a further instrument available to public authorities to help them meet the obligations imposed by Community directives on air quality.


The replacement percentage suggested in the proposed directive would make it possible to obtain rapid initial results as regards improvement of air quality (18), as the EEVs meet standards which drastically reduce HC, NOx and PM emissions.


Moreover, the use of EEVs helps to reduce fuel consumption and encourage research to obtain increasingly significant results for the environment; on the other hand, promoting the use of alternative fuels and studying emission treatment technologies provide a strong stimulus to the growth of the automotive industry.


Considering that the average life of the heavy duty vehicles covered by the proposed directive is about 15 years and assuming that it comes into force in 2006, public bodies would have time by 2030 to recoup the investment, make technological progress and improve performance standards.


A substantial commitment to the speedy promotion of clean vehicles would also have beneficial social effects: improving air quality in urban centres means, among other things, reducing the incidence or exacerbation of respiratory diseases, with a resulting improvement in the public health budget.

Brussels, 17 May 2006.

The President

of the European Economic and Social Committee

Anne-Marie SIGMUND

(1)  COM(2005) 634 final.

(2)  Directive 2005/55/EC, Article 1(c) and Annex I, point 6.2.1.

(3)  Directive 1998/69/EC.

(4)  COM(2005) 261 final of 5.7.2005.

(5)  COM(2005) 628 final of 7.12.2005.

(6)  COM(2006) 34 final of 7.2.2006.

(7)  COM(2000) 769.

(8)  COM(2001) 370.

(9)  COM(2001) 547: it provides for the replacing 20 % of traditional fuels with alternative fuels by 2020.

(10)  Directive 2003/30/EC.

(11)  COM(2005) 37.

(12)  COM(2005) 265.

(13)  Directive 1996/62 on ambient air quality and derived directives: Directive 1999/30 on limit values for sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, particulates and lead; Directive 2000/69 on limit values for benzene and carbon monoxide; Directive 2002/3 objectives on ozone values.

(14)  COM(2005) 446 final.

(15)  A5-0054/2001.

(16)  Helsinki European Council (1999) and Gothenburg European Council (2001).

(17)  In accordance with the priorities laid down by the European Council of 22 and 23 March 2005, in the context of the Lisbon strategy.

(18)  The city of Montpellier introduced the first ‘clean’ buses powered by natural gas in 1999. After thirty months NOx emissions had dropped by 50 %, PT had almost entirely disappeared and noise had been reduced by 5 to 8 decibels. (Data ADEME, Agence de l'environnement et de la maîtrise de l'énergie - Délégation régionale Languedoc-Roussillon).