This week, I visited an exhibition devoted to the urgent need to curb CO2 emissions from trucks, which Transport and Environment, a coalition of NGOs working in this field at EU level, brought to the European Parliament. It paints a pretty soot-stained picture of the state of regulation of these extremely polluting types of vehicles in Europe.
The major names in the heavy vehicle industry were slapped with an unprecedented overall fine of almost 3 billion Euro, just before summer, over an organised cartel scheme they ran for about a decade and a half, to fix prices and avoid the costs of emissions requirements.
The sum may sound staggering, but it is dwarfed by the sheer amount of vehicle sales and profits.
After this lengthy investigation, the Commission was finally roused into action on the carbon emissions front, almost a decade since a truck emissions reduction policy was announced and much time, effort and moral hazard went into emissions measurement cooperation with the industry itself.
This familiarly nebulous story surrounding vehicle emissions won’t yield actual reductions on the road before the mid-2020s, which means we are currently eating the United States’ dust.
In the time elapsed since the EU started talking about curbing CO2 emissions from trucks, not only has the US passed legislation but it has also found the time and political will to review it, and even China has been through a number of iterations of their own standards.
We must make up for our delay with credible and properly enforced emissions standards for heavy vehicles, as we did for cars, with different degrees of scandal and success.
The fact is, the technology that goes into a truck coming onto the roads today has, as you would expect, advanced tremendously over the past two decades, yet they are basically as polluting as they were back in the mid-nineties.
As we struggle to meet a range of climate targets to comply with the commitments made late last year at the UN talks in Paris, our government should put its weight behind strong emissions reduction requirements for heavy vehicles.
As an island, lacking the extensive freight rail options we see elsewhere, these emissions are particularly significant.
One third of our carbon emissions come from transport, and if trucks are forced into line with the efficiency gains we’ve seen elsewhere in the industry, we could cut our total national emissions by up to 7%.
This is absolutely nothing to be sniffed at.