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1.2 The Background

The first appearance of the term 'green' in the context of EU policy on transportation logistics took place in 2007, when the Freight Transport Logistics Action Plan introduced the 'green corridors.' Therefore, this document can serve as our point of departure. But before departing, it is necessary to look briefly into the way the European policy makers view the concept of sustainability with emphasis placed on sustainable transportation.

In relation to the external costs of transportation, the European Parliament asked the Commission, in 2006, to present “a generally applicable, transparent and comprehensible model for the assessment of all external costs... and a strategy for a stepwise implementation of the model for all modes of transport”. In response to this request, the Commission prepared the 'Greening transport package', which was adopted in July 2008 (EC, 2008a). It basically consists of:

• the Greening Transport Inventory that describes the actions already taken by the EU to make transportation greener, and

• the Strategy to Internalize the External Costs of Transport accompanied by a

proposal for introducing road tolls for trucks and track access charges for rail differentiated according to the environmental impact of train operation.

Both these documents will be briefly reviewed in this section, too.

1.2.1 The European Sustainable Development Strategy

Building on the traditional “Brundtland Commission” definition of sustainable development, i.e. “development that meets the needs of the present without compromizing the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,” the EU developed its own Sustainable Development Strategy (SDS) in 2001. The SDS called for a society where economic growth, social cohesion and environmental protection go hand in hand, and laid down long-term objectives and priority actions in six policy areas (EC, 2001):

• climate change and clean energy,

• public health,

• social exclusion, demography and migration,

• management of natural resources,

• sustainable transport, and

• global poverty and development challenges.

In terms of sustainable transportation, SDS set the headline objectives of:

• decoupling transportation growth from GDP growth in order to reduce congestion and other negative side-effects of transportation,[1] and

• bringing about a shift in transportation use from road to rail, water and public passenger transportation,

and identified a number of priority actions, two of which found their way to the conclusions of the subsequent Gothenburg Council of June 2001 (Council, 2001):

• adopt revised guidelines for trans-European transport networks with a view to giving priority, where appropriate, to infrastructure investment for public and for railways, inland waterways, short sea shipping, intermodal operations and effective interconnection, and

• propose a framework to ensure that by 2004 the price of using different modes of transportation better reflects costs to society.

A revised SDS was adopted at the Brussels European Council of June 2006 (Council, 2006). The renewed SDS now rests on four separate pillars—economic prosperity; social equity and cohesion; environmental protection; and global governance—and is based on a long list of guiding principles: promotion and protection of fundamental rights, solidarity within and between generations, the guarantee of an open and democratic society, involvement of citizens, involvement of businesses and social partners, policy coherence and governance, policy integration, use of best available knowledge, the precautionary principle and the polluter-pays principle. Furthermore, a seventh policy area—sustainable consumption and production—is added to the previous six.

The overall objective of sustainable transportation is now:

• ensuring that our transportation systems meet society's needs whilst minimizing their undesirable impacts on the economy, society and the environment, while the corresponding operational targets for freight transportation are:

• decoupling economic growth and the demand for transportation,

• achieving sustainable levels of transportation energy use and reducing GHGs,

• reducing pollutant emissions,

• achieving a balanced shift towards environment friendly transportation modes, and

• reducing transportation noise both at source and through mitigation measures.

Talking about sustainability, it should be mentioned that sustainable growth,

i.e. promoting a more resource efficient, greener and more competitive economy, comprises one of the three mutually reinforcing priorities of Europe 2020, the strategy aimed at dragging Europe out of the 2008–2009 economic crisis (EC, 2010); the other two being smart growth (developing an economy based on knowledge and innovation) and inclusive growth (fostering a high-employment economy delivering social and territorial cohesion). The relevant targets set for 2020 by this document are:

• reduce GHG emissions by at least 20 % compared to 1990 levels or by 30 %, if the conditions are right,

• increase the share of renewable energy sources in EU's final energy consump-

tion to 20 %, and

• increase energy efficiency by 20 %.

Moreover and in order to catalyse progress, Europe 2020 has put forward seven flagship initiatives among which, the most relevant to the subject of this book is “Resource efficient Europe” helping to: decouple economic growth from the use of resources, support the shift towards a low carbon economy, increase the use of renewable energy sources, modernize our transport sector and promote energy efficiency.

  • [1] The indicator adopted for monitoring SDS implementation in terms of sustainable transport is: Energy consumption of transport relative to GDP
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