Transport is the only major sector in the EU in which emissions have increased since 1990, and especially since 2013. The increase has been driven by higher activity levels in the new EU member states, and larger cars in almost all EU countries. Illustrative 1.5°C compatible pathways show a change of this trend: emissions need to decrease by up to 59% between 2019 and 2030, and continue to significantly drop in the 2030s. In most pathways, transport becomes carbon neutral in the 2050s.
The main driver of decarbonisation according to analysed 1.5°C compatible pathways is electrification. By 2030, electricity could constitute between 10 and 43% of energy used in the transport sector. This share increases to between 28 and 66% by 2040 and between 35 and 76% by 2050. The role of hydrogen is more uncertain especially in the mid-term: whereas the range of the scenarios for 2030 is between 2 and 4%, for 2040 it is much broader: between 9 and 41%. By 2050 the bottom of the range increases significantly to 21% whereas the maximum increases only slightly to 44%.
The share of electric vehicles in the EU doubled to 16% in the first nine months of 2021 in comparison to the same period in 2020, indicating a potential change in the emissions trend. The proposal of the European Commission to reduce emissions of new passenger cars by 55% by 2030 in comparison to 2021 and by 100% by 2035 is a positive step towards full decarbonisation of the EU’s transport sector.