Business, Economics and Jobs

EU plan to ban cars by 2050 encounters road block


An electric Smart car charges at a public charging station on March 28, 2011 in Berlin, Germany. The city of Berlin has teamed up with several auto companies and energy utilities in an electric car pilot project.


Sean Gallup

Gasoline-powered cars would be banned from European city centers starting in 2050, under a plan to cut CO2 emissions unveiled by the European Union.

The European Commission says its “Single European Transport Area” plan, which includes proposals to phase out “conventionally fueled” cars from urban areas would cut reliance on oil and help cut carbon emissions by 60 percent. It contends the plan would halve the use of petrol- and diesel-powered vehicles in city centers by 2030.

But Britain on Tuesday rejected the proposal, with Transport Minister Norman Baker saying the EU should not be involved in the transport choices of individual cities.

"We will not be banning cars from city centers any more than we will be having rectangular bananas," he said, the BBC reported.

Meanwhile, the European plan also calls for a 40 percent cut in shipping emissions, 40 percent use of low carbon fuels in aviation, and for shifting half of journeys above 186 miles from road to rail, according to the Environmental Leader. These efforts will contribute to a 60 percent overall cut in carbon emissions, the EC said.

The commission also wants to see freight vehicles in cities become carbon-free by 2030.

And it hopes to eliminate deaths by road accidents by 2050. The White Paper reads: "By 2050, move close to zero fatalities in road transport. In line with this goal, the EU aims at halving road casualties by 2020. Make sure that the EU is a world leader in safety and security of transport in all modes of transport."

European transport commissioner Siim Kallas reportedly said the changes did not have to inconvenience the average commuter. “Freedom to travel is a basic right for our citizens,” he said. “Curbing mobility is not an option. Nor is business as usual.”

"The widely held belief that you need to cut mobility to fight climate change is simply not true," he was quoted by the BBC as saying. "We can break the transport system's dependence on oil without sacrificing its efficiency and compromising mobility."

The white paper lays out 40 concrete initiatives to build a competitive transport sector that increases mobility and cuts emissions.

But Ivan Hodac, Secretary General of the automobile industry’s trade association, ACEA, reportedly said the commission was sending the wrong signal with regard to the acknowledged principle of "co-modality," and called for an urgent clarification.

In particular, the White Paper states that road freight transport in excess of 300 kilometers (about 180 miles) should be shifted to rail or waterborne transport — "regardless of the factors steering the choice of transport mode" and thus "disregarding the eminent role of improving efficiency," quoted the ACEA as saying.

"A simple call for a decrease in the use of motor vehicles will not provide the easy solution it appears to be, because there will not be less demand for the flexible solutions that road transport provides in contrast to other modes," Hodac said. "Road transport plays a capital role and cannot be confronted with arbitrary measures."