Sector: Government Relations and Public Affairs|Sustainability

Delayed departure complicates EU package to decarbonise transport

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In a race for approval ahead of the EU elections next year, the European Commission recently published its long-awaited Greening Freight Package.

The package is supposed to be a vital part of the EU’s Green Deal goal to cut transport emissions by 90% by 2050, but we found several causes for concern in the details.

What’s in the package?
The Greening Freight Package aims to improve rail and road freight traffic and decarbonise the sector through the following three areas:

Improving rail capacity

The promise – The package’s new regulation on railway infrastructure aims to increase efficiency and capacity of rail infrastructure in the single European railway area. Measures include a rolling-planning concept and changes to commercial train path requests, both of which will allow for extended or adapted use of trains to meet demands. These measures should improve planning and the reliability of passenger trains and freights.

The problem – However, the regulation falls short of its promise of groundbreaking change. A significant portion of its potential impact hinges on the success of existing industry-led initiatives such as the Timetable Redesign Project. Essentially, the regulation formalises and backs these ongoing strategies, without offering any thing that could independently revamp the sector.

The regulation also fails to take on the most pressing challenge facing Europe’s rail sector: the glaring differences in systems across different member states. Technological standards, infrastructure design, operational procedures, and national regulations all vary significantly, disrupting cross-border operations.

Despite its merits, the proposed regulation narrowly focuses on capacity management, sidestepping these significant systemic cross-border inconsistencies. While it could potentially make railway infrastructure usage more efficient, it does not fundamentally advance us towards a truly harmonised EU rail system.

Revising maximum weight rules to accommodate electric and hydrogen trucks

The promise – The revision of the Weights and Dimensions Directive (WDD), the EU’s proposal to incentivise low-emission lorries, is a big stride towards a more sustainable and efficient freight transport sector. This revision, designed to accommodate larger, zero-emission heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs) has the potential to boost the market for these types of vehicles and significantly reduce CO2 emissions.

Newly proposed weight limits for zero-emission HDVs will stop trucks, particularly those used on long-haul routes requiring larger batteries, from having to compromise on cargo weight. Once enacted, electric and hydrogen trucks will be allowed to weigh up to two tonnes more than their fossil fuel equivalents. This adjustment is consistent with the EU’s broader electrification drive that is projected to significantly reduce an estimated 27.8 million tonnes of CO2 emissions between 2025 and 2050.

The knock-on effects of larger capacity trucks will be felt across different modes of transport, increasing efficiency and reducing road traffic.

The problem – The European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) has raised concerns that larger, heavier trucks may lead to increased axle loads, underlining the necessity for adequate safety provisions.

Also, as a directive, the WDD allows Member States flexibility when implementing the legislation. While this can occasionally be an advantage, it risks creating a patchwork of different standards across the EU.

Counting emissions – if you feel like it

The promise – The Commission has proposed the voluntary CountEmissionsEU initiative, a methodology to calculate greenhouse gas emissions in the transport sector. This initiative aims to improve transparency and consumer information by allowing for fair comparisons between different transport services. The initiative promotes a ‘well-to-wheel’ approach, taking into account emissions both during vehicle usage and energy provision.

The problem – Even with this solid framework, there remain issues with implementation. A standout is the suggested use of secondary data when primary data is not accessible. This could lessen the burden on operators, but risks inaccuracies. There is also the matter of the protective exemption for small and medium-sized enterprises, which could result in a significant portion of emissions going unaccounted for.

The lack of a compulsory mandate might curtail the initiative’s reach. Given the urgency of the climate situation and the freight transport sector’s projected rise in emissions, stronger measures may be needed. CountEmissionsEU could be more effective if specific guidelines for various transport sub-sectors are established.

In summary
The Greening Freight Package is an important first move towards decarbonising the freight transport sector. Yet, despite this, the proposals remain steeped in complexities and lack the ambition necessary for substantial emissions reductions.

With the European elections less than a year away, getting the package approved before the end of the current parliamentary term may prove challenging, the timeline being even more challenging for the contentious Combined Transport Directive which is yet to come. The extremely short timeline to conclude discussion and refinement does not bode well for the finalisation of the package, which will also be at the mercy of the Spanish Council Presidency and their willingness to prioritise this file.

If you’re interested in knowing more about the Greening Freight Package, get in touch with our transport experts at

Grayling reinforces its EU Public Affairs Team with three new hires

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Grayling has announced the appointment of Charles Feld as the new Director and Head of its EU Energy & Environment Practice in Brussels. New Manager Dominik Flikweert and Senior Consultant Otto Ilveskero also joined this month to further reinforce the team’s sustainability credentials.

Charles joins Grayling from the leading worldwide transportation and shipping group CMA CGM, where he represented the company’s European advocacy strategy. Previously, Charles worked in the European Parliament as political adviser to French MEP Philippe Juvin. His professional experience also covers the European Commission and the External Action Service.

Grayling Brussels has further reinforced its EU Energy & Environment Policy Practice with two additional appointments: Manager Dominik Flikweert, joining from LightingEurope with an extensive background in eco-design and energy efficiency and Otto Ilveskero, who has specialist expertise in green finance, renewable energy, and green technologies.

Russell Patten, CEO of Grayling in Belgium, said: “Charles, Dominik and Otto’s appointments further strengthen our already considerable expertise in the field of sustainability – including energy, transport and climate policy, a growing area of focus for us. Their experience and knowledge of specialist policy will bring added value to our clients’ businesses.”

Charles Feld added: “It is an exciting moment to join the Grayling Brussels team in a year that will be key for Europe’s global climate leadership, ahead of the Fit for 55 announcements and COP26. An increasing number of organisations are trying to get their voice heard on the green transition and we have lined-up the perfect team of experts to advise and guide them.”


Charles Feld, Dominik Flikweert and Otto Ilveskero (from left to right).


For further information on the appointments please contact

Eco-Score – the new labelling headache?

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Grayling Brussels explores the new French environmental labelling scheme and the wider European debate on sustainable labelling.

As the debate around Nutri-Score, the proposed EU-wide nutritional label, rages on, another player enters the arena. Eco-Score is the new environmental label developed in France and assigning food products a score depending on their environmental footprint.

The initiative is particularly timely as the European Commission’s Farm to Fork Strategy foresees the development of an EU sustainable labelling framework by 2024. The Commission will examine schemes already in place at Member State level before making up its mind on an EU-wide scheme. France’s Eco-Score will therefore likely influence the Commission’s work.

Both initiatives respond to increasing demands by consumers across Europe for an ecological impact label. A 2020 study found that 57% of consumers would be in favour of compulsory sustainability information on food labels. More recently, the Commission registered a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) on 30 June, calling for a “European eco-score”.

Image source: Eco-Score

Eco-Score will be familiar to many of you, as it is essentially the environmental sister of Nutri-Score. The system assigns food products and ready meals a score out of 100, with colour-coding and letters for consumer ease. The score takes into account various factors, such as the environmental policy of the producing country, the transport mode, or the seasonality of the product. Based on these factors, it presents an aggregate score, aiming at making every shopping decision quick and easy.

Nevertheless, the more environmentally minded among you may lament the lack of detail. Was this strawberry locally grown but out of season and with harmful pesticides, or was it grown across the globe but in a sustainable and organic fashion? Maybe you would favour one over the other, should the information be provided to you? This is the clear drawback with Eco-Score…

Eco-Score has already spread outside of France, with both Colruyt and Lidl currently running trial periods in Belgium and Germany, respectively. If Eco-Score continues to spread further and gain support, it does not seem unlikely that it could be taken up at EU level.

That said, the Commission has other alternatives at its disposal, including one of their own making. Indeed, the Commission already developed a pilot project on environmental labelling, called the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF). A study on this scheme revealed, without surprise, that complex labels with more information had a bigger impact on people’s choices, but only if they actually took the time to read and understand the label. Conversely, simpler labels with less information reached a wider audience but had a lesser impact on their choices.

The dilemma is obvious; is it better to change a few a lot or to change many a little? This will be a tough nut for policy makers to crack…

We are still a long way away from the Commission’s proposal on a sustainability label, but the requirements and objective of the future label gives us some clues as to what it may look like. Most important of all, any future label is to be used across the EU. This speaks strongly in favour of simpler labels with less detailed information, reaching a wide audience and overcoming language barriers.

Eco-Score presents all the above qualities. It is an easily understood label allowing consumers to make a decision with the glance of an eye, no matter who they are and what language they speak. Most people are further already familiar with how the label works, due to its similarities with Nutri-Score. This makes it a strong contender.

Nonetheless, some issues remain. Eco-Score faces criticisms for oversimplifying the environmental impact of products, the trade-off for being easily understood. Further, with a nutritional and a sustainability label, are we really making consumers’ lives easier? Or are we putting them in a situation where they may need to choose between their health or the environment? One could also wonder, why stop there? Couldn’t we envisage a “Socio-score”, taking into account the social and labour conditions of workers along the supply chain of a product? While no one can argue against the importance of proper consumer information, let’s just hope that we won’t have to bring our reading glasses to the grocery store in the future!