Based in Brussels, Transport & Environment is little known to the general public. It fueled criticism of private jets and contributed to the decision to stop the sale of thermal cars from 2035.
If cars sold from 2035 will have to be zero emissions, it is partly thanks to – or because of – Transport & Environment. It is an NGO based in Brussels, square de Meeûs, near the European Parliament. It is run by a Belgian, William Todts, and employs 70 people. It was founded around 30 years ago to promote emission-free transport.
If cars sold from 2035 will have to be zero emissions, it is partly thanks to – or because of – Transport & Environment. It is an NGO based in Brussels, square de Meeûs, near the European Parliament. It is run by a Belgian, William Todts, and employs 70 people. It was founded around 30 years ago to promote emission-free transport. “We are both a think tank and a campaign group, specifies William Todts. We devote 30 to 35% of our budget to research. Many other NGOs do not spend as much on this kind of work.” Transport & Environment (T&E for short) regularly publishes studies and recommendations increasingly quoted by the media for boats, cars, coaches or trucks to switch to emission-free engines. The approach consists in obtaining regulatory changes supported by studies, published and distilled at the European Commission, the European Parliament or in national political authorities. It practices more reasoned influence than mediatized indignation. Latest file to date: heavyweights. T&E estimates, based on a study by TNO, a Dutch research organisation, that trucks will quickly be cheaper to run on electric than on diesel by 2035, even for long journeys. For manufacturers to get serious, the NGO asks, as for cars, that trucks marketed from 2035 are zero emissions. T&E is not alone in campaigning against global warming. There is also Greenpeace, WWF, ICCT (at the origin of the denunciation of dieselgate). The means and approaches are not the same. Greenpeace or Extinction Rebellion like spectacular actions on TV. T&E, on the other hand, plays the card of pragmatism and solutions. His figures serve as arguments. As was the case all summer about private jets, denounced by Belgian and French politicians of various stripes and who sometimes demanded a ban, like the French Green MP Julien Bayou. “Our report shows that private jets are 5 to 14 times more polluting than commercial planes (per passenger) and 50 times more polluting than trains,” says a report from the oft-cited NGO. T&E prefers the wealthy to use their means to finance the decarbonization of private flights. “Instead of saying we have to punish the rich, ban them from private jets, we think they can pay for cleaner fuels or planes,” says William Todts. The NGO proposes that business jets be replaced from 2030 by planes using hydrogen or electric motors for journeys under 1,000 km. The Financial Times applauded. “Banning private jets would make a lot of people happy, but it would be better for the climate to keep them flying,” comments the financial daily in an editorial titled Don’t ban private jets – make them a green testing ground. T&E has the same approach for the decarbonization of commercial flights, another controversial subject. “We hear a lot of people, organizations, say that we should all take the train, but it does not work, notes William Todts. Most air travel cannot be done by train, two thirds of air travel are long-haul, to Asia or America. Even within Europe, there is a limit to the development of high-speed trains.” T&E is pushing for the mandatory and progressive use of alternative fuels, SAFs (sustainable advanced fuels). Provided that they do not come from crops indirectly generating deforestation (palm oil) or competing with plants for food use. A European directive is in the process of being adopted on the subject. It excludes palm oil. Who is behind T&E? The site publishes the list of donors. These are usually foundations, such as Climate Imperative Foundation, European Climate Foundation or Schwab Charitable Fund. Among the most important are Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Hewlett Foundation, the Packard Foundation, the German Ministry of the Environment, the European Commission (without being the spokesperson, specifies T&E). industry, insists William Todts. We are totally independent. Our funding comes mainly from philanthropic foundations. Our resources are increasing because the world of philanthropy is increasingly interested in environmental issues. ” Resources continue to increase. In 2021, T&E obtained almost 10 million euros in financing, compared to 1.3 million euros in 2010. It employs around 70 people, four times more than in 2010. These new resources make it possible to increase the ambition in studies and to open national offices. “We are present in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, London, Poland, continues the boss of T&E. The European level is important, but many decisions are also made nationally. However, 10 million euros , it’s both a lot and a little, just the price of an advertising campaign in the automotive industry.” What are the relationships with industries? “Companies are looking to make money for shareholders, I have nothing against it. That’s fine. But if we want to counter climate change, we have to create the same rules for everyone to go towards decarbonization and giving everyone security. Some were talking about stopping the heat engines in 2025 or 2030, we say that the date of 2035 gives everyone time to adapt.” William Todts is convinced that the 2035 target creates the conditions for the industry to be able to produce a large volume of electric cars at acceptable prices. “Battery-powered cars will be more accessible if they are produced by the millions, by the tens of millions.” It is true that several manufacturers have voted in favor of the end of the fuel vehicle in 2035 in Europe: the VW group, Volvo, Ford. “We have often agreed with VW on a series of subjects; on others, this was not the case, continues the T&E manager. For aviation, we helped convince the European Commission to put in place targets to gradually change fuel. We are working with the airline industry on this subject, but when they ask to limit the obligations to intra-European flights, we do not agree, this represents only a third flights.” T&E’s latest outing calling for an end to fuel trucks by 2035 and pushing electric traction was not met with an outcry. “Things are changing very quickly, explains Michaël Reul, Secretary General of the UPTR transport association. “The batteries are still very heavy. The current consensus for long journeys is hydrogen. Finally, if you call me in five years, things may be different.” The European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) is also very measured. “Member states will have to commit to putting in place a framework to accelerate investment in trucks across the EU,” says Cara McLaughlin, spokesperson for the association. The key point is the cost of using electric trucks, which remains very high. “Cost parity will not happen on its own, continues Cara McLaughlin. We need technological improvements, innovations. And also political interventions (in particular via the cost of carbon, the Eurovignette, etc.) to systematically disincentivize the use of fossil fuels and incentivize climate-neutral alternatives.” William Todts believes that the situation is the same as for the electric car a few years ago, when no one thought it possible to connect Paris with a battery-powered vehicle. “People say the same thing all the time and think it’s true. Five or 10 years ago it was said that trucks would stay on diesel because they are too heavy to be decarbonized, that it would be impossible to go beyond 300 km of autonomy. Then, Mercedes announces a truck with 500 km of autonomy; Tesla, 800 km. Enough to open 80% of the market for long journeys on a single charge. The fact that trucks drive 100,000 or 150,000 km per year does not make the electric truck model more difficult, it makes it easier. The more electric you drive, the more economical it will be. Diesel is 30 to 35% of the cost, electricity costs less.” He thinks that electricity will be more attractive than green hydrogen, which does not yet exist, the cost of which could prove to be very high. It remains to convince the sector and the European Commission.