That’s according to a report from the latest edition of the annual report by the European Environment Agency (EEA), which states that, while car transport has been in decline since 2009, air transport has significantly increased over the last few decades.

Transport and Environment Reporting Mechanism (TERM) 2014 reveals that, while car transport has consistently declined since 2009, air transport has continued to significantly increase over the last few decades. 

Passenger transport demand fell by 1.4%, freight transport volumes fell by 2.1%, and GHG emissions from the transport sector fell 3.3% in 2012. 

However, research suggests that air quality is still harming health and the environment in Europe’s cities. This is partially down to the ever increasing popularity of diesel cars, which emit greater levels of nitrogen dioxide than new petrol vehicles. 

Battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, on the other hand, account for just 0.5 % of total new registrations in the EU. This slow growth is as a result of incentives such as scrappage schemes and company car systems, which favour internal combustion engine vehicles in the majority of member states. 

TERM also states that long-distance travel puts particular pressure on the environment, with long-distance freight and passenger transport demand jointly responsible for almost three quarters of transport sector emissions. 

Complex networks

Another EEA report – Adaptation of transport to climate change in Europe – has criticised policymakers for giving little attention to adapting the transport system to climate change.

Although adapting infrastructure may be difficult because transport networks are complex, a lack of action could lead to future problems such as:

> Long-term disruption to railways and roads damaged by flooding

> Problems caused by storms

> An increase in rail buckling, pavement deterioration and passenger discomfort caused by rising temperatures and extended heatwaves

> Harbours and other transport infrastructure and services at the coast threatened by the rising of the sea-level

> Climate change may also have indirect effects on transport. For example, through changes in tourist destinations or agricultural production, which can have an impact on transport demand.

EEA suggest adaptation measures when infrastructure is built or renewed as one of the most cost-effective solutions as it can prevent those adapting from ‘locking-in’ to unsustainable transport systems by taking a longer-term, systemic perspective.

According to the report, ‘reducing GHG emissions (mitigation) and adaptation to unavoidable impacts are complementary actions both needed to cope with climate change.’

At the climate summit in Lima, the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA) restated the importance of biofuels, such as ethanol, in reducing transport sector GHG emissions.

Lois Vallely

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