|The increase in greenhouse gas emissions from transport is linked to increasing volume and slower than expected efficiency improvements. Click to enlarge.|
Greenhouse gas emissions from transport remain a key, but avoidable, obstacle to the EU reaching its Kyoto climate change targets, according to a new report from the European Environment Agency (EEA).
The EEA report, Transport and Environment: on the way to a new common transport policy, says that European transport policy must deal with spiralling demand for transport. Between 1990 and 2003, passenger transport volumes in the EEA countries grew by 20%. Air transport grew the most, 96%, during this period.
While emissions from most other sectors (energy supply, industry, agriculture, waste management) dropped between 1990 and 2004, emissions from transport increased substantially driven by this increase in demand.
Transport is responsible for 21% of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the EU-15 (excluding international aviation and maritime transport). Road transport contributes 93% of the total of all transport emissions. However, emissions from international aviation are growing fastest with an increase of 86 % between 1990 and 2004.
GHG emissions (excluding marine and aviation) from transport grew the most in Luxembourg and Ireland between 1990 and 2004 with respective increases of 156 and 140%. The average increase in the 32 EEA member countries was 25%.
By suggesting that we simply deal with the environmental impacts of transport, the mid-term review of the 2001 White Paper on Transport could be interpreted as a softening of Europe’s line on the need to deal with transport volumes. This cannot be the case.
We cannot deal with the increasing GHG emissions, noise pollution and landscape fragmentation caused by transport without dealing with the increasing traffic across the spectrum: on our roads and railways, in the air and by sea. Technical advances, such as cleaner, more fuel-efficient engines are very important but we cannot innovate our way out of the emissions problem from transport.—Professor Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director of the EEA
Progress in the reduction of average new passenger car CO2 emissions is slowing down, the report notes, leading to the recent decision by the EC to push for legally binding reduction targets rather than to rely on the voluntary agreement of the automakers.
The consumer trend towards larger, more luxurious and thus heavier cars is an important obstacle to achieving net reductions. Fiscal measures, another pillar of the EU policy, could have helped to overcome this obstacle. However, these have been insufficiently implemented.
Technological progress in 2005 has manifested itself mostly in incremental improvements of conventional engine technology rather than by the introduction of new powertrain technologies. Apart from a new hybrid SUV, the number of hybrid car models available on the European market has not changed.
On the bio-and alternative fuels front, the EEA report notes that while biofuels can play a role in reducing greenhouse gases, the lifecycle (well-to-wheel) emissions for biofuels vary widely. A detailed analysis of the WTW emissions for different fuel types is therefore necessary to achieve the most positive impact on climate change and the sustainability of the process.
To further increase biofuels volume in the future, the EEA report says that fuel standards need to be adapted and the compatibility of the vehicles with biofuels needs to be improved.
The report also highlights the significant role that transport subsidies play in terms of directing transport choices. Between €270 and €290 billion is spent annually in Europe in transport subsidies. Almost half of these subsidies go to road transport, one of the least environmentally friendly modes. The EEA will release a detailed study of transport subsidies next month.
Transport, especially road transport, is becoming less polluting due to increasingly strict emission standards for the different transport modes. Nevertheless, air quality in cities does not yet meet the limit values set by European regulation, and still has a major negative impact on human health. Almost 25% of the EU-25 population live less than 500 meters from a road carrying more than three million vehicles per year. Consequently, almost four million life-years are lost each year due to high pollution levels, the report says.
The EEA report is the annual publication from the EEA’s Transport and Environment Reporting Mechanism (TERM), which monitors the progress and effectiveness of attempts to integrate transport and environment strategies.