The role of civil society is essential in order to gain social acceptance for the measures relating to transport and COP 21

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In its opinion The impact of the conclusions of COP 21 on European transport policy the European Economic and Social Committee considers that, with regard to transport, the objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 60% compared to 1990 levels is very ambitious and requires major efforts. However, the objective can still be considered relevant and in line with the EU's general objective under COP 21, provided the associated actions and initiatives are implemented urgently, with the necessary determination and as soon as possible.

The opinion stressed that the polluter-pays principle should be applied flexibly, in particular in the context of remote rural, mountain and island areas, in order to avoid effects that are inversely proportional to the costs and to ensure that it continues to be useful as a way of influencing choices regarding the organisation of transport operations, while at the same time abolishing any unfair competition between different modes of transport. The polluter-pays principle on its own will not be enough to guarantee the transition to a low-carbon society. Additional measures such as increasing energy efficiency, promoting electromobility, car-sharing, developing alternative energy sources, developing environmental quality standards and above all, promoting public transport, are also of crucial importance. 

The EESC insists that the intensive mobilisation of civil society organisations and economic and social interest groups seen in relation to COP21 should be maintained, in order to develop a civic movement in favour of climate justice and disinvestment in polluting activities. The Committee urges the Commission to include specific provisions in the review of the White Paper on Transport in 2016 to stimulate a broad debate with civil society – it is essential to gain social acceptance for the measures relating to transport, some of which are rather unpopular, and no measures will be effective unless all those whom they affect identify with them.

In its opinion the EESC also emphasises the need to build a proactive industrial policy and coordinated R&D to support the transition to a low-carbon economy. A sustained R&D effort is required to reconcile the inevitable increase in transport with a reduction in polluting emissions.