Greener travel for everyone – Fit for 55 proposals for the transport sector

A systemic review of transport at EU level is back on the agenda. This is not surprising, as it is high time to start seriously addressing the issue of climate change and adapting our legal systems to the new situation. Climate catastrophe is no longer the future, it is the present, and even at best, it is not a temporary issue. Road transport accounts for around 20% of all energy-related emissions in Europe, so it is inevitable that this sector will have to make serious emission reductions. Read more… (Lilla Balogh)

A systemic review of transport at EU level is back on the agenda. This is not surprising, as it is high time to start seriously addressing the issue of climate change and adapting our legal systems to the new situation. Climate catastrophe is no longer the future, it is the present, and even at best, it is not a temporary issue. Road transport accounts for around 20% of all energy-related emissions in Europe, so it is inevitable that this sector will have to make serious emission reductions.


On 11 December 2019, the Commission published its Communication on a “European Green Deal”, which aims to address climate and environmental challenges and achieve climate neutrality for Europe by 2050. Achieving this is inconceivable without a profound change in the economy and societal attitudes. To achieve these objectives, the European Commission has proposed new measures in eight policy areas.

The legal framework for this is the “Fit for 55”, which includes proposals to review and update EU legislation and introduce new initiatives to ensure that EU policies are consistent with the climate targets agreed upon by the Council and the European Parliament. Its name refers to the EU’s target to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030. [1]

Road transport

The Fit for 55 package for road transport aims to reduce carbon emissions. The general approach was adopted in June 2022 to set stricter carbon standards in the EU. This is no small area, as cars and vans are responsible for 15% of total EU carbon emissions. From 2035, it is proposed that new cars and light commercial vehicles put on the market should be zero emission. However, many manufacturers have already committed themselves to this, so it would be better to speed up the process rather than giving extra concessions through EU bargaining. [2]

The road transport provisions of the package also cover heavy goods vehicles, so you will see greener trucks on the road in the near future. CO2 emissions from heavy-duty vehicles (e.g. lorries, buses, coaches) account for 6% of total EU CO2 emissions and 27% of total CO2 emissions from road transport. Manufacturers who go against the package will have to pay a financial penalty in the form of an excess emissions premium. In addition, concrete measures will ensure that large amounts of reliable data are available to monitor the actual fuel and energy consumption of heavy-duty vehicles. [3]

Air and water transport

Certain pollutants released into the air by human activities are causing global climate change. The gradual increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations, nitrogen oxides, water vapour and soot particles are having a major impact on the temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere and are causing global temperatures to rise.

The transport and freight sectors are also largely responsible for this trend. According to 2018 data, the road transport sector is responsible for the highest CO2 emissions in the EU, followed by the aviation sector (14.4%), while the third most atmospherically destructive sector is shipping with its emissions (13.5%). 

Sustainable transport fuels can play an important role in climate protection. While the road transport sector has made progress in the last decade with the use of electric or hybrid vehicles and biofuels, and the electrification of rail transport, the air, maritime and freight transport sectors use fossil fuels almost exclusively. The two sectors currently have limited opportunities to reduce their carbon footprint on the earth due to their dependence on fossil fuels and the lack of mature and competitive alternative fuel technologies. A further cross-border problem is that the market for sustainable fuels is at a standstill, as demand for them is very low and fuel companies have little incentive to produce them.

The EU’s climate policy objectives will only be successful in the EU if policy is set at EU level and central regulation and action is taken to promote the large-scale production and marketing of sustainable fuels and to increase their competitiveness.

The package contains two initiatives and proposals:

Comparison of the goals of the two drafts

ReFuelEU Aviation (draft on ensuring a level playing field for sustainable transport)

FuelEU Maritime (draft on the use of renewable and low-emission fuels for maritime transport)

  • Aircraft fuel distributors at EU airports should gradually increase the share of sustainable fuels (target 63% by 2050)
  • Aircraft departing from EU airports should only be refuelled with the sustainable fuel needed to operate the flight (to avoid increased emissions associated with excess fuel weight.)
  • EU airports should have the appropriate infrastructure for the transport, storage and filling of sustainable aviation fuels
  • For ships (except fishing vessels) of more than 5,000 gross tonnes calling at European ports, the GHG intensity of energy used on board should be reduced. Target: 59% by 2030 and 75% by 2050.
  • Vessels moored at quayside should be connected to shore-side electricity sources to meet their electricity needs from 2030.

Source: Own editing

The regulations are intended to encourage the wider use of sustainable fuels in the transport sector, which is expected to lead to significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

In line with the aims of the proposals, the EU Commission has put forward a proposal to revise existing legislation with a view to accelerating the deployment of infrastructure for the refuelling of alternative fuel vehicles and providing alternative energy supplies for ships at berth in ports and for stationary aircraft.[4]

Railway service

The modernisation of rail transport in the EU has also been ongoing for several years. In 2020, the Council adopted a decision on the European Year of Rail and 2021 has been declared the European Year of Rail. The objective of the decision is to promote railways and increase their contribution to industry and society as the most sustainable mode of transport. According to 2017 figures from the European Environment Agency, rail is responsible for only half of the EU’s total GHG emissions.[5]

In addition, the rights of rail passengers have been revised to promote this form of transport. Notably, they are trying to make it easier to transport bicycles by making capacity information mandatory and providing space for at least 4 bicycles on every train in Europe. This may be due to the fact that the COVID-19 epidemic has increased the importance of cycling and walking in many European cities. It also shows that if we provide people with the right, efficient means of transport, they will choose the environmentally friendly option.

Financial resources

Under the Investment Plan for a Sustainable Europe, the European Union would mobilise at least €1000 billion for sustainable investment by 2030. To make this amount available over the next decade, a combination of different sources of funding and public and private investment will be needed.

Between 2021 and 2030, the EU budget plans to provide €503 billion for such spending. The InvestEU Fund will provide around €279 billion. The Innovation Fund and the Modernisation Fund can provide €25 billion. These two funds will be financed by revenues from the auctioning of allowances under the Emissions Trading Scheme.

Also on 14 January 2020, the European Commission proposed the creation of a fair mechanism for the transition to the EU ETS, consisting of 3 pillars:

  • An Equitable Switchover Fund, which would mainly provide non-repayable grants,
  • A financing programme to be set up under InvestEU to attract private investment, mainly in energy and transport infrastructure and decarbonisation projects,
  • A Public Sector Lending Facility to be set up with the European Investment Bank.

The Commission has proposed an investment of €100 billion. 18 Member States have requested such support. The European Commission approved all applications, including Hungary’s. In addition, a Social Climate Fund has been set up to finance concrete measures to tackle energy and mobility poverty. [6]


The protection of environmental values is a new trend across Europe and sustainable economic concepts are gaining ground in politics. Climate change affects every individual and every region, so there is a need to empower cities, regions and people.

Our position is in line with that of the Vice-President of the European Commission that action can serve as a lifeline from the circumstances of the COVID-19 epidemic and the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. This has the merit of focusing more on the economic side of the 3 pillars of sustainability, but its positive impact on the environment is striking.

The proposals for action contained in this European Green Deal are ambitious and could serve as a guide for other continents. However, it makes sense to implement the initiatives while guaranteeing equity and social support. In this way, people’s living standards would only feel the change to the extent that is necessary and they would more easily continue to act in accordance with the law.


Author: Lilla Balogh, law student, University of Debrecen Faculty of Law


[2] Fit for 55: why the EU is toughening CO2 emission standards for cars and vans,

[4] Fit for 55: increasing the uptake of greener fuels in the aviation and maritime sectors,

[6]Az európai zöld megállapodás,