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EEA: Transport is a Key Obstacle to Reaching Kyoto Targets

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.



Rafael Seidl

Increased cargo volume is arguably a direct consequence of the single market. The same is true to some extent for recreational travel within Europe. Realisrtically, the best anyone can hope for in the medium term is that CO2 emissions by the transportation sector can be stabilized. Real reductions will have to come from other sectors of the economy.

For stabilization to occur, the EU urgently needs to look broadly at any and all incentives it and its member states are providing to boost transportation volume in the name of economic growth and European unification - and then strike a new balance.

Now, it is true that German auto makers in particular continue to generate and then satisfy consumer demand for cars that are larger and more powerful than they really need to be. Hence the recent decision to propose a fleet average limit of 130 gCO2/km by MY2012. However, businesses can still write off transportation assets in full, regardless of how much CO2 they produce.

Also, it's not uncommon for livestock to be ferried back and forth across the Alps because it allows the owner to collect "export" subsidies twice over. Road haulage volume of industrial goods is also growing rapidly, e.g. because the car and engine assembly plants are sprouting up in Eastern Europe receive 80% of their parts from suppliers in the West. Plus, everywhere in the EU, diesel fuel is taxed at a lower rate per unit of energy than gasoline is. Alternative fuels are taxed more lightly in some places, but the desire to boost biofuel blend fractions is already causing tropical countries to turn their rain forests into feedstock plantations - this can increase well-to-wheels CO2 emissions substantially relative to petrofuels.

Meanwhile, the effort to integrate Europe's freight rail services such that rolling stocks, locomotives and their drivers can cross national borders is proceeding at a snail's pace. The Iberian peninsula presents special problems because track gauges there are wider. There are no plans to support dual gauges on selected routes. In stead, mountains of fresh produce are shipped from southern Spain to the rest of Europe using trucks. Their refrigeration cycles really ought to be driven by the waste heat in the exhaust gas, using absorption chillers or Vuilleumier machines, but little research is being done on applying them to HDVs.

There are also a lot of super-discount airfares on offer. These are subsidized by regions that want to attract traffic to their secondary airports, because doing so tends to raise real estate values once you get beyond the immediate vicinity of the runways. The EU is trying to levy fuel taxes on kerosene, but long-standing international treaties with e.g. the US are making that hard to implement.

At the other end of the spectrum, little is being done to encourage the use of (electric) bicycles for neighborhood traffic, e.g. by increasing the number of bicycle lanes and adding speed bumps to narrow city streets. The Netherlands and Denmark are exceptions to this rule. Public transport networks are much denser in Europe than in the US, but even here capacity utilization is poor during much of the day. Given Europe's legions of currently unemployed people, it might make sense to switch to van-based door-to-door services plying ad-hoc routes optimized by computers in a central location.

Finally, while broadband internet connections are widely available in Western Europe at least, it is still less common for knowledge-based businesses to let their staff telecommute than in the the US or Canada.

Summing up, there is actually a lot the EU and member states could do regarding the macroeconomic parameters that are driving the increase in CO2 emissions from the transportation sector. A few things are being done here and there, but it's high time for much bolder, more comprehensive and more co-ordinated action.

Thomas Pedersen

Your said it, Rafael!

I think an important obstacle to curbing CO2 emission from road transport is the fact that Europeans have the same desire to drive as Americans do (personal freedom, flexibility, etc.), we just haven't given in to that desire as much in the past. The same goes for recreational flying. Business flying, however, stands a better chance of being replaced with broadband teleconferences.


Despite all the problems outlined by Rafael, Europeans still generally have a lot more options to avoid using the auto than Americans do. My guess, however, is that the Irish, especially, have taken advantage of their newfound wealth to indulge themselves in something similar to the "American dream", that which should really be called the American nightmare.

I am curious, though,since I used to live in Frankfurt. Has the percentage of miles traveled attributable to the auto increased over the last two or three decades. My experience in Frankfurt was that, for most trips, it was more convenient, safe, and pleasurable to take mass transit, walk, or bicylce, than take the auto around town. In fact, it would never have even occurred to me to take a car to downtown Frankfurt. All my transporation needs throughout the whole metro area were taken care of for $40 per month.

Stan Peterson


The EU is hoist on their own petard. The sanctimonius EU chides the US.
The US industrial sector has essentially already met the Kyoto targets. Its 2005 GHGs emissions are essentially the same as 1990 emissions, as reported in another article on these pages the 2008 EPA GHG study by sector.

Mean while the EU emmissions appear to be up about 23% overall for the grtransport sector with ground transport emissions growing by 25% or so during the interval. This report only shows the EU transportation sector but it is not like the EU has had an GDP boom over that time, either.

Most western EU economies were lucky to grow 1% or 2% a year if that, over the period. So the output of the EU GDP is certainly nowhere near even the rate of increase of GHGs emissions. Since most of the former East bloc EU members have had their GDP decresae markedly as socialist makework was eliminated just as in the Russian Federation. It only makes these figures even worse.

So once again the Greens, when in power, produce very little except apparently more and more voluminous hot air.

Meanwhile here in the US and Japan research and massive infrastructure investment in electric auto components and products is happening. Products are starting to flow to consumers hands that will make substantial reductions in transport emissions and to electrify the auto/truck fleet. Prius, Camry, Highlander, Escape, Milan, Civic, LS400h et cetera are here today, at the forefront of a coming deluge of such products. These changes alone will let the USA achieve not even the stupid irrelevant 1990 Kkyoto "targets" but return the US to 1930-1940 emissions levels with a population now three times larger and an economy providing goods and srervices to the world enormously greater than that.

Announced Saturn Aura, Siverado Sierra. Durango, Tahoe and Suburban hybrids are all available or announced for sale in 2008. Some PHEvs have even been pre-announced for 2009 as infrastructure factories being constructed are completed.

If you would build these vehicles you first must invest to build the components for huge numbers of hybrid and truly clean diesels, the ones the europeans wont require until 2015 and not even then. These factories are being built when we let the companies have the wherewithal to make the investments.

I have alwasy failed to seea how removing money from the people and organizations that must make investments to improve the situation, has anything but a detrimental effect.

But the socailist greenies think that giving them a additional dollar of taxes; Fuel taxes, or Carbon taxes instead of investing it in a factories, accompslishes any damn thing.

Its as stupid as the 17th century doctors who used leeches and knives to bleed their patients.


Another good European technical study. Quite informative, with sensible analysis and realistic predictions. Appears that European politicians newer read technical papers, such as this one, UN paper on livestock “long shadow”, or papers from International Energy Administration.

Couple of comments, thought. Claim that Europe “produces” biofuels is somehow misleading. They only “refine” raw vegetable oil and other raw stock (if add in numbers of agricultural import), mostly grown in S.America and S-E Asia.

I kind of puzzled with numbers for huge road transportation subsidies. Where all huge fuel taxes are going? Funding IPCC?

Four million life-years lost every year due to poor air quality associated with road traffic is chilling number. I wish European authorities will concentrate their efforts on immediate reduction of smog-forming and PM emissions (according to report not decreasing in big cities), especially from legacy diesel vehicles and two-stroke motor bikes.


According to report, both passenger and cargo road transport grew in Europe at about same pace as GDP – about 30% for the period.

P.S. From 1990 to 2004 GHG emissions from transport (excluding international aviation) in Austria grew by 89%. Rafael, you are fired.

Rafael Seidl

Stan -

not having seen the EPA study, I cannot comment on it. I would suggest looking carefully at how the numbers are computed in the two documents, e.g. if electricity generation is considered part of the industrial sector or itemized separately.

Afaik, the US currently emits about 20 tons CO2 per head and year. For the EU, the number is around 8, even though the material standard of living here is not all that much lower.

The main reason for the lower per-capita emissions is simply that all forms of energy are far more expensive here than in the US, though other factors such as climate, geography and demographic changes also contribute. Fuel taxes don't deprive industry of funds for fuel economy research, they create a market for its results.

And when you tout all the electric hybrids becoming available in the US, bear in mind that their share of the LDV market is still just 1-2%. Europe ICE-gas turbine "hybrid" turbodiesels enjoy ~50% market share. Purely in terms of action on fuel economy, the US really is lagging by about 15 years. Europe, for its part, is lagging wrt emissions. The political priorities are obviously different.

Andrey -

I didn't realize I was working for you, Mr. Trump.

Austria's GHG output has increased mostly because of transit traffic between Germany and Italy since it has joined the EU. This heavily skews the data. It's not like people here are suddenly all driving twice as much or all that much faster, though personal travel has increased with economic growth just like everywhere else. Note that Austria's railways run exclusively on hydro power.

Btw, Germany will introduce a system of colored stickers that advertise which Euro emissions level a particular diesel vehicle was certified to. Cities that are not complying with the EU directive that requires them to take action if PM-related air quality exceeds a threshold value on more than 35 days in a given calendar year. So far, the directive has been honored only in the breach all over the EU, because politicians are too scared to tell low earners and old age pensioners they are not supposed to bring their old bangers into the city center on any given day.


The reason for the mess is simple and what china learned from the us. The better your roads the less fuel needed to get something from one place to the other.

Also it simply is the case that for once people are realizing that hey wait a minute going someplace with my stuff and comming back with more stuff is damn fun!

Now ewhat would realy make me laugh my ass off is if americans reach kyoto 2020 or 25 er watever it was before europe does.. not because we cared to not because we ment to not because we tried to but simply because the tech is cool and trendy. Concidering the sick sense of humor the universe seems to have....

fyi CO2

Maybe the US reaches kyoto 2020 before europe because they have overconsumed themselves on imported goods and peak oil and the rest of the world won't float them another loan.

fyi CO2

The SHORTER your roads the less fuel needed to get something from one place to the other.

Kit P.

There you have it, the human factor. People in the EU also want to drive bigger, faster, cars farther and farther. I suspect people are the same in India and China. Mandating that the car companies make efficient cars even more efficient will not reduce ghg emissions. No doubt someone will rudely explain the obvious engineering principles. If you can not legislate obvious behavior that is detrimental to society, why would anyone expect anyone to listen to people living in mansions and riding in limos preach about AGW. The obvious benefits of using energy to make our homes more comfortable and to enjoy the freedom of private transportation outweigh the environmental cost. I am all for conservation but it does not seem to be very popular.

The problem is car salesmen who make more money selling ego trips.


Kit P: Mandating that the car companies make efficient cars even more efficient will not reduce ghg emissions.

Mandating that car companies make grotesquely inefficient cars more efficient might help though.

Stan, the "sanctimonious EU" was already quite efficient in 1990. The US was not. Get a clue.



The various EU railway packages would go a long way towards fixing the issues
with international rail freight, if only the member states would implement
them. "Surprisingly", the incumbent state-run monopolies aren't very eager to
change the status quo, and drag their feet as much as they can.

It's interesting to note that in the EU the rail share of tonne-km:s is about
15 % and shrinking, while in the USA it's about 40 % and and increasing. Rail
is most competitive the longer the distance, and for the USA one can see this
as the share of rail traffic steadily increasing the longer the distance. In
the EU there is a similar increase, but at about 1000 km:s there is a drastic
cutoff, due to the aforementioned troubles with international rail traffic.

The EU really needs to get its stuff together on this issue.

AFAIK in Spain they have recently built standard gauge rail for the high-speed
intercity and international passenger services. Though I don't know if they
have any plans to eventually regauge the rest of the network.

Of course, you have the same problems in the baltic states, Finland, former
Soviet countries and naturally Russia itself.


Oh no the sky is falling and the Europe is going to save us! I'm going to go idle my truck for a few hours while I burn a pile of tires in my back yard. You know, to offset the tree hugger.

Kit P.

George, there is no difference between the efficiency of American cars and those of the EU. Americans make different choices. When I owned a 1984 Suburban, I got 14 MPG pulling a 27 foot trailer. This was 75% better than my 1974 International TA. My 1989 Toyota PU was about 10% better but I could a small boat getting maybe getting 24 MPG. My 2007 Corolla is maybe 10% better and gets 40 MPG but can not pull a kite.

This engineer can not design you a more efficient car not can any in the EU are Japan because we all use the same laws of thermodynamics. What George really is talking about is government mandating what Americans drive and how they live.

The reason Americans can drive big cars and live in big houses is because we are the most productive and efficient people in the world. I worked in Europe for a year. I learned a lot. Like explaining how to do things better without hurting their pride. In Europe, you can buy a MB that is a cheap and crappy as a Ford or Chevy. You just could not import into the US because it not meet safety or environmental standards.

Rafael Seidl

jb -

in 2005, Austria was the first country to buy locomotives that can deal with the different voltages and frequencies across Europe. There are also special trains that HDVs can be loaded onto, so drivers can sleep while crossing the Alps. This greatly alleviates congestion on the few available freeways and also reduces emissions of both noxious gases and noise, but it's an expensive system.

The reason we have all these incompatible rail systems in Europe in the first place is that through WW II, railways were considered strategic military assets that had to be controlled directly by the state. When Prussia pummeled the Habsburg empire at Koeniggraetz in 1866, everyone notices that its rail-based logistics were a key element of that victory. Consequently, steps were taken to make sure trains could not easily cross national borders.

Today, we are suffering the consequences of this nation-state thinking. Railway operators everywhere are losing money because they cannot compete effectively with road haulage in the crucial cross-border freight market. Getting them there would require significant additional investment - by the taxpayer - in the rail infrastructure, in the face of aggressive lobbying by the road haulage industry.

Btw, that high-speed 1430mm gauge rail line from Madrid to Seville was ostensibly built for the 1992 World Expo. Rumor has it that France actually forced Spain to buy TGV trains with that gauge as a quid-pro-quo for going after ETA in the Basque provinces on the French side.

In addition to investment in hardware, shifting freight back onto the rails would require a single pan-European grid operator serving competing train operators. That would mean taking on bolshy unions because most railway operators in Europe also happen to be grossly overstaffed. I'd like to see that happen, but I'm not holding my breath.

all -

Europe couldn't save the US if its life depended on it. You're going to have to do that by yourselves and, burning a pile tires in your back yard is a good way to start. You'll be arrested for polluting the air and fined up the wazoo. That should make you think twice.


A short road gets you nowhere if the trip is longer then the road.

You have bad roads and bad rail your transport sector is growing in energy use faster then ours oh and you dont have a zillion tons of coal and shale and a friend to the nrth with more oil then opec....

We have bigger homes because we have more space and we wanted bigger homes.

We have bigger cars because we could afford the limited fuel cost of doing so and realy enjoy the uses we can get from them.

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