Michael Cramer is a German MEP of the Greens / Free Alliance and a member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Transport and Tourism.
Cramer spoke to Euractiv Greece’s Stavros Mavrogenis.
The Commission and the European Council have been in conflict recently over an amendment to the Energy Efficiency Directive obliging builders to install electric charging stations in new buildings. It is up to the European Parliament now to discuss the issue in November. What is your position?
I do not think that an obligation to install electric charging stations in private buildings will solve our mobility problems. Sustainable mobility is about much more than shifting from one source of energy to another one. We need to start by looking at mobility needs and spatial planning. Across the world, cities try to develop neighbourhoods with fewer or no cars to improve safety, life and air quality as well as the use of space. Take the example of Oslo:
They are leading in Europe when it comes to electric cars, but one of their main concerns are new neighbourhoods without any cars. Charging stations can be one part of a new approach, but they should, in my opinion, be in the public space in order to share them. And they should also serve electric bikes, cargo-bikes, and busses.
While China, which has been heavily criticised for being the largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world, is thinking of how to go greener at least in transport, Europe, a frontrunner in the implementation of the Paris Agreement, is still trying to identify and remove from circulation the polluting vehicles produced by the German car industry. Has the EU learned its lesson from the Dieselgate scandal? What is the way forward?
I think that the EU and its member states are currently far from being a model for climate protection and future-proof mobility. And the Dieselgate scandal is just one example among many, but it perfectly illustrates many of the shortcomings. Governments and regulators still seem to think that helping the industry means that they should tolerate immoral or even illegal behaviour.
But no job in the car industry is safer today because they allowed car manufacturers to pollute our environment and damage the health of our citizens. The EU and member states have a lot of lessons to draw: we need ambitious targets, tough enforcement and financial sanctions for those who cheat – because only when it hurts will certain car manufacturers adapt their business model.
Do you support the Commission’s proposal on the Mobility Package (Europe on the Move), which was presented on 31 May for a 75% exemption of zero-emission vehicles from toll payment? What other incentives would you like to see implemented?
The idea sounds appealing but again, it’s too narrow a vision of electric mobility. It’s not first and foremost about a different fuel but a different approach to mobility and fewer vehicles on our streets that are better utilised. Imagine: you’re stuck in a traffic jam in Athens or Brussels. Sitting in an electric car does not help a lot – it only reduces local pollutants, not traffic jams, the use of public space or stress. Let’s look at the railways: 100% of their networks are tolled and electric trains do not get a free ride!
On the contrary: Many tracks are still not electrified and diesel locomotives have to be used. I pledge for a bold approach to e-mobility: it’s much more than e-cars, it should start with e-buses, e-taxis, e-delivery, e-(cargo)-bikes and of course more electric tramways and trains!
The European car industry recently reacted strongly to the Chinese plans to set goals for electric and hybrid cars to make up at least a fifth of Chinese auto sales by 2025. India also has similar ambitions. Would you like to see the EU in the near future adopt Chinese-style quotas for zero carbon vehicles?
Honestly I am not convinced that quotas will solve our problems. We should rather set the right conditions for sustainable mobility. Let’s cut subsidies for diesel, introduce fair taxes for company cars and invest in clean mobility for everyone, from the child to the grandfather. And then the take-up of new vehicles will follow.