How Policy Change Boosts Electric Vehicle Transformation in Europe with Laurence Tubiana – California China Climate Institute

electric vehicle charging

EV’s in Europe

The European Union has recently seen a significant transformation in the market for electric vehicles. The European Union reported nearly 1,325,000 electric car registrations in 2020 which is an 11% increase in registration from 2019. The majority of these registrations occurred for battery electric vehicles rather than plug-in hybrid cars or vans. 

According to the European Environmental Agency transportation is the largest contributor to EU greenhouse gas emissions, and the EU has made it a top priority to reduce their emissions. In the EU’s Fit for 55, they set a target to cut 55% of the carbon emissions from cars and 50% of the emissions from commercial vans by 2030. Their Fit for 55 goals also include completely cutting carbon emissions from cars and vans by 2035. While these goals are leading to an uptick in the sale of electric vehicles, a substantial increase is still needed to meet these ambitious targets. Forbes reports electric vehicle sales are estimated to make up 60% of the Western European market by 2030. Because carbon emissions from transportation account for a large percentage of greenhouse gases, growth in the electric vehicle market is essential if  the EU is to meet its goal of carbon neutrality by 2050 as part of the European Commission’s commitment under the Paris Climate Agreement. 

How is the EU Acknowledging Equity in Carbon Emission Policies? 

Government support and consumer enthusiasm has helped accelerate the switch to electric vehicles in Europe.  However, Forbes reports that vehicles are still unaffordable for average wage earners. The European Automobile Manufacturers Association 2021 report notes that nearly all EU member states offer tax benefits and purchase incentives, such as bonus payments and premiums, for electric vehicles buyers. The Kraftfahrt Bundesamt, (the Federal Motor Vehicle Transport Authority, which is the federal authority in Germany for motor vehicles), reports that despite these government support and benefits, wealthier buyers have taken a greater advantage of these bonuses. Policymakers are looking at explicitly targeting subsidies for lower-income groups to make these vehicles more accessible. One solution is to use revenue from carbon taxes and use this revenue to help subside lower-income earners to shift electric vehicles. The EU will need to continue to work towards more concrete solutions if they hope to reach their carbon goals by 2050. 

Who is Laurence Tubiana?

Laurence Tubiana, CEO of the European Climate Foundation and Professor at Sciences Po in Paris, has decades of climate and energy research experience. Previously, Tubiana served as France’s Climate Change Ambassador and Special Representative for COP21, the UN High-Level Champion of climate action, a chair of the Board of Governors at the French Development Agency, and a chair for the Board at Expertise France. 

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Episode Transcript

Tubiana: No gas project will enter in the new portfolio of the European Investment Bank, which is of course a very big lender in Europe. These types of very strong moves are important to understand.


Ethan: That’s Laurence Tubiana, CEO of the European Climate Foundation and a key architect of the 2015 Paris climate accord. She spoke with former California Governor Jerry Brown during a California China Climate Institute discussion about electric vehicles in Europe. She says higher prices are one of the biggest hurdles for those looking to buy an electric vehicle over a gas one.


Tubiana: People cannot necessarily switch from having a highly polluting car to a cleaner one. That perspective of the new solidarity fund that has been decided together with this extension of the carbon pricing, the economy in Europe, is to try to in a way compensate people who cannot switch to an electric car easily because they are still too expensive for them. To have to compensate them for the tax they are paying; the economic signal exists, but of course it doesn’t have a regressive effect on the more modest household.


Ethan: To learn more about Tubiana and policies to boost electric vehicles, visit climatebreak.org or wherever you get your podcast. I’m Ethan Elkind and this was Climate Break.