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Parliamentary questions
5 February 2010
Answer given by Mr Dimas on behalf of the Commission

All sectors should contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Aviation will be included in the EU ETS as from 2012.

Railways contracting electricity are also indirectly covered by the EU ETS, as any other end-user of electricity in the EU. Railways and certain modes of public transport therefore face a cost of carbon to the extent that the electricity they purchase is generated by carbon intensive technologies. Low or zero carbon electricity will be made more and more available through an increasing share of renewable energy, in line with the EU's target of a 20 % share of energy from renewable sources in the EU’s gross final consumption of energy in 2020.

In the EU, minimum levels of taxation applicable to motor fuels are set by the directive(1) on restructuring the Community framework for the taxation of energy products and electricity at rates EUR 0.359 per litre for petrol (around EUR 10.83 per gigajoule (EUR/GJ)) and EUR 0.302 per litre for gas oil (around 8.67 EUR/GJ). In effect, in certain Member States fuel for road transport is subject to taxation in the form of excise duty up to EUR 0.70 per litre for petrol and up to EUR 0.68 per litre for diesel fuel. This is in addition to value added tax ranging from 15 % to 25 %(2). At the same time, the majority of Member States apply reduced rates on gas oil for railways.

Directive 2003/96/EC also sets minimum levels of taxation applicable to electricity at EUR 0.5 per megawatt hour (MWh). (around EUR 0.14 per GJ). The highest excise duty on electricity in the EU is applied in the Netherlands at EUR 108.5 per MWh for small consumers. However, reduced rates are applied in a number of Member States for railways, and for public transport (tram, metro, trolley-bus).

By comparison, an ETS allowance price of EUR 20 per tonne of CO2 would be equivalent to EUR 0.04 to EUR 0.05 per litre of motor fuel.

In the case of public transport, operators are incentivised indirectly through the ETS to ensure that their electricity portfolio is more and more in line with a carbon constraint transport system. The ETS sends the price signals, which will lead to increased demand for low-carbon electricity.

The incentives in place in the forms of energy taxation and the EU ETS will favour those transport modes that are less carbon intensive, while at the same time providing a general indication of the cost of transport as opposed to possible alternatives (for example the choice of a different location). Looking at the current trends in greenhouse gas emissions, it is certain that more needs to be done in the whole of transport sector, including maritime transport, to reduce its emissions.

Finally, the Commission has issued in July 2007 a Communication on a ‘Strategy for the internalisation of external costs(3)’ that covers other negative externalities caused by transport (congestion, noise, local pollution and accidents). The implementation of this strategy would further level the playing field between different modes and favour more sustainable transport solutions.

(1)OJ L 283, 31.10.2003
(2)Excise duty tables in accordance with Council Directive 2003/96/EC, status 1 July 2009.

Last updated: 25 February 2010Legal notice