The new decade has only just begun, and with the Green new deal we are setting environmental sustainability and climate neutrality goals for the Old Continent up to 2050. However, have the goals that European countries had set themselves for this year, in particular for transport, been achieved? Remember that these targets involved a 20% cut in greenhouse gas emissions compared to 1990 levels, a 20% share of energy from renewable sources and a 20% improvement in energy efficiency, hence lower primary and final energy consumption.
As regards the first target, in particular, the EU is progressing towards achieving the planned cut, as the reduction up to 2018 was 23%. As already mentioned in previous contributions, however, it was transport itself that reported the worst performance in the period under review, with a continuous increase until 2007, followed by a phase of moderate
In other words, Member States are succeeding in reducing emissions mainly thanks to other sectors, primarily energy generation, which have become progressively more efficient. Although road transport remains the largest contributor to air pollution, international agreements and regulations for agreeing on emission reductions in maritime transport are also of paramount importance, where the baseline scenario foresees a growth of between 50% and 250% of greenhouse gas levels by 2050 if no action is taken. With this in mind, greenhouse gas emissions from shipping, currently 13% of the EU total, are monitored by the Commission and Member States, at least for ships above 5000 tonnes, with the aim of cutting pollution by 50% by mid-century and moving towards full climate neutrality by the end of the century.
With reference to the expected 20% share of energy from renewable sources, the EU is approaching the target and will most likely be able to reach it this year. In 2017 it had reached 17.52%, with a contribution of renewable energy at European level that has consented a saving greater than all the CO2 emissions produced by Italy in a year. In this area, transport is still one of the sectors with less ambitious objectives, given the achievement of a planned 10% share of renewables, which will be possible essentially by using organic fuels, some imported from third countries.
The third and final energy efficiency target will not be achieved, however. In 2017, both primary and final energy consumption at European level was above the levels forecast for 2020. More significant savings are expected by 2030, with transport necessarily having to make a contribution as it was firmly positioned at the top of final energy consumption (34%), well ahead of housing and industry (25% each).
The reflection on the trajectories of air pollution reduction and environmental sustainability achieved so far is significant for the determination of the new climate neutrality strategies of the Union and the Member States. The 2020 targets have certainly been more within reach due to the economic crisis that has affected European economies since 2008. This is particularly true for the transport sector. Moreover, there is no doubt that a lighter, more service-oriented economy is naturally less polluting. Will it be possible to continue on this path towards climate neutrality, in the future too? We must, of course, reconcile economic growth with a progressive but decisive reduction in pollution production and in the footprint of human activities on the environment, and transport will have to contribute much more to this than in previous decades.