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EEA Report: Trends in European Transport Are Heading in the Wrong Direction

Indexed European transport sector greenhouse gas emissions, 1990-2006. Source: EEA. Click to enlarge.

Transport continues to contribute disproportionally to Europe’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, poor air quality and noise, and still uses the least efficient modes to move people and goods according to a new report from the European Environmental Agency (EEA).

Emissions of GHG have increased by 26% (EU-15) or 180 million tonnes between 1990 and 2006, excluding international aviation and marine transport—an amount larger than the entire annual national emissions for 2006 from Belgium (132 million tonnes) or Romania (157 million tonnes).

Other key messages of the report include:

  • Freight transport continues to grow, with the largest increases occurring in the least energy efficient transport modes—road and air freight. The total volume measured in tonne-kilometers for EU Member States increased by 35% (650 million tonne-km) between 1996 and 2006. Rail and inland waterway freight recorded increases of 11% and 17% respectively but saw their market share decline.

  • Passenger transport by road and air has continued to increase throughout the EEA member countries. Between 1995 and 2006 car ownership levels in the EU-27 increased by 22% (equivalent to 52 million cars, equivalent to the entire fleet of the UK and Spain combined), and passenger car use increased by 18%. The number of kilometers travelled by passengers in EEA member countries grew by 1% (equivalent to 65 million kilometers) in 2006.

  • Air pollution. Emissions of regulated air pollutants from vehicles continue to fall across EEA member countries but concentrations remain high in some urban areas. Despite a reduction in road transport exhaust emissions across Europe, there have been no significant improvements in concentrations of fine particulates (PM10) and nitrogen oxides (NOx), which have a major impact on air quality and human health.

  • Noise. Many people are exposed to transport noise levels that affect their quality of life and health, notably in large agglomerations. Road traffic is by far the main source of exposure to transport noise. Almost 67 million people (i.e. 55% of the population living in agglomerations with more than 250,000 inhabitants) are exposed to daily road noise levels exceeding 55 Lden (an EU benchmark for excessive noise).

We know the technology exists to tackle impacts of the transport sector on Europe’s environment. However, many vehicles rolling off production lines are anything but green, the freight sector still favours the least efficient transport modes and railways across the EU still do not have a unified system.

At a time when we need to tackle our economic and environmental problems through sustainable and green solutions, trends in transport are pointing in the wrong direction; and will continue to contribute to air pollution, rising emissions of greenhouse gas and many negative environmental impacts.

—Professor Jacqueline McGlade, EEA Executive Director

Well-designed policies to manage demand for transport can reduce transport volumes. This would improve the transport efficiency of the economy and decouple transport growth from economic growth. The report also confirms that price signals play a major role in the choices made by consumers; a 10% increase in fuel prices is associated with a 20% increase in demand for bus services.

We still need clear, measurable, realistic and time related targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, air emissions and noise from transport. Perhaps more critically, consumers have indicated through their reaction to volatile prices last year, that fuel and road pricing clearly has a role to play in tackling transport demand.

—Professor McGlade

The report “Transport at a crossroads” 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. TERM reports have been published since 2000.

EEA member countries include: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom.


  • Transport at a crossroads. TERM 2008: indicators tracking transport and environment in the European Union. (EEA Report No 3/2009)


We do not have to sit back and watch the problem get worse every day. Global warming is a human problem that requires a human solution.

Demand laws on recyclability product design, limits on GVW of vehicles on the public roads and restrictions on packaging. Don't accept anything less than 150mpg from personal vehicles. The technology is out there we decide to use it now, not 20 years from now.

If you are reading this the future is in your hands.


Anyone who thinks a 10% increase in fuel prices will yeild a 20% increase in bus usage is living in the wrong planet.

The NOx and Particulates have not reduced because Europe has gone diesel, and while this yeilds good fuel economy and CO2 reductions, it is bad for the local environment.

That is what you get from focusing on CO2 to the exclusion of other pollutants - Europe has gone one way, the US the other.

Going for 150 mph is pointless, go for 50 mpg (US) across the board and you will see some progress - The way to look at it is Litres of fuel / year, not MPG.
If you drive 10,000 miles / year:

at 20 mpg you need 500 gallons of fuel,
at 30 mpg you need 333 saving 166
at 40 mpg you need 250 saving 83
at 50 mpg you need 200 saving 50
at 60 mpg you need 166 saving 33
at 80 mpg you need 125 saving 41
at100 mpg you need 100 saving 25
at150 mpg you need 66 saving 33

The most important thing is to eliminate the gas guzzlers, and go from 20 to 40 mpg across the board, not go from 50 to 150 in a few showcase cars that people can neither buy nor afford.

There are loads of cars that get 40 mpg (US) in Europe, the trick is to get people to use them.

Sorry for the mixed up units.


"Global warming is a human problem that requires a human solution."

That is exactly the attitude that has defeated global warming. It's not a human-made problem - climate results from natural variation. Attempts to hang the human population with "global warming" - are the result of unworldly elitists attempting to control human behavior to meet their selfish needs.


"The earth’s climate (in contrast to the climate in current climate GCMs) is dominated by a strong net negative feedback. Climate sensitivity is on the order of 0.3°C, and such warming as may arise from increasing greenhouse gases will be indistinguishable from the fluctuations in climate that occur naturally from processes internal to the climate system itself."

Dr. Richard Lindzen, Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology, Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Science, MIT

Ok, i am elite. Danke Schoen!

Are you saying that global warming is a squirrel problem and maybe the baboons will take care of it?

Don't forget about the Orangutans! Smart ones the Orangutans, I bet they will take care of global warming.

Mr. Mahoni, i think your post is well done. Incremental changes do not solve the problem though. 150MPG is not pointless, the technology exists. Rocky Mountain Institute is a private lab that has created a prototype that achieves this figure.

If the smart people who read GCC get all of their friends to demand a solution it can be achieved.


It's already being done. It's called electrification of transport.

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