Agency report Transport at a Crossroads finds the sector contributes disproportionately to greenhouse gas emissions, poor air quality and noise and still uses the least efficient modes to move people and goods.

Professor Jacqueline McGlade, EEA executive director, said on presenting the report to the European Parliament in Brussels last Tuesday (March 31): “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.”

She added: “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.”

The EEA says the technology is available to tackle the impact of transport on Europe’s environment but points worrying statistics, including that:

  • transport emissions of greenhouse gases, excluding international aviation and marine transport increased by 26% between 1990 and 2006
  • total freight volume for EU member states increased by 35 % between 1996 and 2006 while rail freight and inland waterways market share fell
  • car ownership levels rose between 1995 and 2006 by 22% or 52 million cars – equivalent to the entire UK and Spain fleets put together. Meanwhile, the number of kilometres travelled by EEA member country passengers grew by 65 million kilometres in 2006.
  • The report says “well-designed policies” could cut transport volumes and improve transport efficiency.

    It highlights how rising fuel prices can boost 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,” said Professor McGlade.

    “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.”

    The report is an annual publication from the EEA’s Transport and Environment Reporting Mechanism (TERM), which monitors transport and environment strategies.

    David Gibbs

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