|GHG emissions from transport in the EEA-31 (all EEA members except Cyprus) between 1990 and 2002|
A new report from the European Environment Agency (EEA) highlights the 22% increase in greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector between 1990 and 2003—a period during which emissions from other sectors decreased.
The report, Transport and Environment 2005: Facing a Dilemma, shows that more goods and passengers are being transported farther and more frequently across Europe.
Ireland is the extreme example, with an increase of 130% in greenhouse gas emissions from transport—excluding aviation and maritime—reflecting its economic growth. Germany, on the other hand, has experienced only a 5% increase, consistent with its economic experience.
Emissions from air passenger transport grew at the fastest rate (96% between 1990 and 2002), while the share of road and rail remained constant.
Transport, especially road transport, is becoming cleaner because of increasingly strict emission standards and improved technology. However increases in demand continue to outstrip positive innovations. We are locked into patterns that are not easily changed in the short term. Long term policy initiatives are needed to encourage people to change their habits.—Professor Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director of the EEA
The concern is not just greenhouse gas emissions, but air quality pollutants as well. The report foresees that many European cities will continue to fail air quality limits.
Ozone incidents are frequent now, and air quality limits set for ozone in 2010 are widely exceeded already. The impacts on health are severe: estimates suggest that as many as 370,000 people die prematurely every year in Europe due to air pollution.
The report anticipates that the use of biofuels on a scale where it will significantly reduce total greenhouse gas emissions will not be a reality for many years. In the meantime, transport will continue putting pressure on the continent’s environment, the report says.
The report delivers ten key points:
Freight transport volumes grow with no clear signs of decoupling from GDP. More goods are transported farther and more frequently. This results in increased CO2 emissions and slows the decline in air pollutant emissions. Relative decoupling of growth in freight volumes from economic growth has only been achieved in the EU-10, where the growth in GDP exceeds the high growth in transport volume.
Passenger transport volumes have paralleled economic growth. Passenger transport volumes have grown in most Member States.
Greenhouse gas emissions from transport are growing. Transport’s energy consumption (and its emission of greenhouse gases) are increasing steadily because transport volumes are growing faster than the energy efficiency of different means of transport. The increase in greenhouse gas emissions from transport threatens European progress towards its Kyoto targets. Therefore, additional policy initiatives and instruments are needed.
Harmful emissions decline, but air quality problems require continued attention. Transport, especially road transport, is becoming cleaner because of 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.
Road freight continues to gain market share. Road transport has gained a greater and rising share of the freight market. This development constitutes a move farther away from the EU objective of stabilizing the share at its 1998 level.
Air passenger transport grows, while the share of road and rail remain constant. Changing the modal split towards rail transport and away from passenger cars is not being achieved. Both modes are growing at the same rate as total passenger transport volume. In addition, the share of aviation is increasing whereas the share of bus and coach is decreasing.
Developments in fuels contribute to emission reductions. All countries where data are currently available have met the 2005 limit value for low sulfur content in road transport fuels. The remaining ones are expected to hit their targets as well. In addition, some countries have already achieved the 2009 target on zero sulfur fuels. Moreover, steps towards sulphur reduction are being taken in other modes. However, much work remains to be done. The share of biofuels is increasing, although currently reported shares are below the targets of the biofuels directive.
Car occupancy and lorry load factors decline in countries for which data are available. Data where available on occupancy rates and load factors show average occupancy rates for passenger cars are lower than a decade ago. Growing car ownership, the decreasing average size of households and disperse spatial patterns are the main causes for low occupancy rates. The limited data available also show a trend towards poorer use of heavy goods vehicle capacity. Apparently, the higher transport costs, resulting from lower utilization, are exceeded by benefits such as reduced production costs.
New technology can cut emissions and fuel consumption, but more effort is needed to achieve CO2 targets. New engine and vehicle technologies have entered the market, reducing pollutant emissions and improving fuel efficiency. Although the fuel efficiency of passenger cars has improved in recent years, more effort is required from car manufacturers to meet the goals of the voluntary CO2 commitment.
Comparison of international greenhouse gas emission standards for new passenger cars.
Additional effort will be required by all stakeholders to achieve the EC objective of 120g of CO2/km.
Price structures are increasingly aligned with and yet well below external costs level. There are a number of initiatives to align price structures better with the external impact of transport. However, transport prices are generally well below the marginal social cost level. This is resulting in over-consumption of transport.