Speech by Sharon Dijksma, Minister for the Environment, at the Informal Environment Council meeting, Amsterdam

'My message to policymakers and the industry is crystal clear: road transport that produces low or no emissions should be the goal we are aiming for. It should be our guiding light. And if you ask me if Europe is ready for this new age in road transport, then my answer is a resounding “yes, we are!”’ according to Environment Minister Sharon Dijksma at the official opening of the Informal Council meeting in the Europa building on 14 April 2016.

Esteemed colleagues, Commissioners Vella and Cañete, Members of the European Parliament, representatives of international organisations, ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to Amsterdam. I’m delighted that you could join us here today. I hope the film we’ve just seen has inspired you all.

You came to Amsterdam by road or by air, or perhaps by train. Each of these transport modes are a major economic motor, bringing us prosperity and employment. But they also have negative effects on the health of our citizens, on the climate, on accessibility and on the quality of life in our cities.

In Paris, 195 countries signed the very first binding climate agreement: a historic agreement and a turning point. I’m very proud of this result. But we all know that Paris marks the beginning of the road, not the end. The question is how can we set about achieving the two degree target and aim for 1.5 degrees?

Achieving this ambition requires major steps towards low and zero emissions in road transport. This challenge is our starting point today. The transport sector is responsible for 25 per cent of all CO2 emissions in the EU. Our aim for 2050 is to reduce emissions by 60 per cent; a considerable challenge, calling for a considerable effort.

Road transport will have to make a serious contribution. And the same applies to aviation and shipping. Tomorrow we’ll discuss these last two transport modes with our transport counterparts.

But let’s not lose sight of the opportunities these emission reductions will present for green growth and new jobs in Europe. By investing now in alternative clean, climate-neutral fuels and energy-efficient cars, we will create new markets and make ourselves more competitive worldwide.

Studies by the European Climate Foundation show that greening mobility will lead to 700,000 new jobs by 2025!   

Fortunately, we don’t need to start from scratch. Many sustainable technologies and fuels are already available. Car manufacturers and fuel suppliers have identified the possibilities and market opportunities. Take biofuels for instance, and electric and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. What’s important now is to speed up and multiply applications.

I realise that we don’t all have the resources to set to work immediately. Together with the Commission, we’ll have to make sure that these technologies can be applied all over Europe.
It’s up to us – as policymakers – to develop a policy that provides scope and incentives for this trend towards green mobility.
With the right mix of instruments.
Instruments that bring our aims for energy, climate, competitiveness and air quality closer to achievement.

Europe needs new incentives for pioneering, sustainable biofuels. Fuel efficiency standards need to set out a clear path to zero emissions.

All new vehicles will need to be zero-emission capable by 2035 at the latest if we’re to achieve our 2050 targets. That will create clarity, for manufacturers too. It’s also essential to introduce fuel efficiency standards for heavy goods vehicles. They already apply in some parts of the world.

The 2020s will be a crucial decade for the transition. The longer we wait, the higher the price future generations will have to pay. Governments can boost the transition by setting a good example in their tendering policies.

In fact, my ministry already has several electric cars, and even several hydrogen fuel-cell car. In short: practise what you preach!

But it will be up to the private sector to bring about the real transition. It cannot – and should not – be imposed by governments alone. So working together is essential.

I believe that our discussion should centre on two questions;
What policy frameworks and financial and other instruments are needed at EU and Member State level to scale up and accelerate the transition to low/zero-emission fuels and vehicles for road transport?
What measures do Ministers intend to take at Member State level to support the ‘greening’ of fuels and vehicles?

My message to policymakers and the industry is crystal clear: zero- and low-emission road transport must be the compass we steer by. It must be the beacon on the horizon. And if you ask me whether Europe is ready for this new era in road transport, my answer is a resounding: YES WE ARE!

Because we have the technology and the know-how,
we have ‘Paris’ and our European goals,
and we have a sense of urgency and the right mindset.

What we need now is an ambitious, realistic and forward-thinking policy in a post 2020 European framework.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I hope that by the end of the day we will have sent an important signal to everyone who wants to move towards a sustainable, liveable future. So let’s get to work and turn our big ideas into big action.

Thank you.