Transport emissions soar as EU attempts to tackle gases.

The desire to travel is threatening to wreck efforts to tackle pollution as rising transport emissions are undermining the progress made in other areas by European states.

Number crunchers at the European Environment Agency have published showing that between 1990 and 2004 emissions of greenhouse gases dropped for most sectors, including energy supply, industry, agriculture and waste management.

But at the same time, transport emissions continued to rise – in some cases at an extraordinary rate.

In Ireland and Luxembourg, for example, emissions from land-based transport grew by 140% and 156% respectively. The average increase in the 32 EEA member countries was 25 %.

Transport, excluding shipping and aviation, is responsible for 21 % of total greenhouse gas GHG emissions in the EU-15. 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.

The EEA is calling for policy changes and a shift in incentives to encourage the public to leave their cars at home and take less flights.

While cleaner, more efficient vehicles can play a role, a change in behaviour is needed to make a real difference, says the agency.

“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,” said Professor Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director of the EEA.

“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.”

The EEA has published a report, Transport and Environment: on the way to a new common transport policy which looks at what could be done to address the problem, highlights the significant role that transport subsidies play in terms of directing transport choices.

Between Euro 270 and Euro 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.

Pollution from transport is also having a direct effect on our health, with the report claiming that across the EU almost 4 million life-years are lost annually as a consequence of high pollution levels.

Sam Bond

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