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Freight transport demand - outlook from OECD (Outlook 037) - Assessment published Jun 2007

Indicator Assessmentexpired Created 08 Jan 2007 Published 08 Jun 2007 Last modified 12 Nov 2013, 09:22 AM
This content has been archived on 12 Nov 2013, reason: Content not regularly updated
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Generic metadata


Environmental scenarios Environmental scenarios (Primary topic)

Transport Transport

externalities | forward looking indicators | baseline | air transport | transport
DPSIR: Driving force
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
Indicator codes
  • Outlook 037
Geographic coverage:

Key policy question: Is there in Europe a trend of decoupling of freight transport demand from economic growth?

Key messages

The OECD Environmental Outlook does not provide the direct answer to these policy questions but provides an indications on the developments in the transport sector globally.

The rapid increase in transportation activity seen in recent decades is expected to continue to 2030.

Global Air transportation volumes and GDP (1990 = 100)

Note: N/A

Downloads and more info

Transport externalities in Europe in 2004

Note: N/A

Downloads and more info

Key assessment

The rapid increase in transportation activity seen in recent decades is expected to continue to 2030. For example, air freight travel worldwide has grown almost two folds 1990 to 2004. Although air travel has been the fastest growing transport mode in recent decades, other modes have increased as well. Road transport, in particular, has grown faster than GDP in both the EU and North America. Transport growth is not only being driven by people/goods travelling further and more often, but also by an increase in the availability and use of motorised transport. In OECD countries, the private car has been the norm for decades, so only moderate increases in car ownership are predicted over the next 20 years. In non OECD countries, on the other hand, rapidly rising incomes are expected to lead to large increases in vehicle ownership. In some cases, the increase in motorised transport is occurring at the expense of existing modes - some of which are less environmentally damaging than road transport. For example, bicycle use in China has fallen recently, as automobile use has expanded.
In OECD countries, road transport is responsible for most of the transport sector's impacts on the environment, accounting for over 80% of all transport-related energy consumption, and for most air pollutant emissions, noise and habitat degradation (OECD, 2006a). In Europe (EU15, Norway and Switzerland), total external costs of transport (excluding congestion costs and externalities related to maritime transport) have been estimated at EUR 650 billion for 2000, or about 7.3% of total GDP (INFRAS, 2004). Climate change was the most important category, contributing 30% of total costs. Air pollution and accidents were the next most significant. In terms of transport mode, road transport has the biggest impact, generating 83% of the total estimated external costs. This is followed by aviation (14%), railways (2%), and inland waterways (0.4%). Road transport accounted for over 89% of the costs in all categories, except for climate change, in which road transport accounted for only 57% of estimated costs. Almost all the remaining costs associated with climate change came from aviation (41%). Two-thirds of all transport related external costs are caused by passenger transport and one-third by freight transport.

Maritime transport, although generally associated with lower environmental impacts, continues to raise concerns, mainly due to oil pollution from major accidents, as well as (accidental or deliberate) discharges of waste products. The maritime shipping sector is also an important contributor to NOx and SO2 emissions, as well as to ozone pollution. There is also growing concern over the environmental impacts of air traffic, which continues to increase rapidly mainly due to increased tourism. The rail sector is generally the most environmentally benign form of transport, but is also the least used.

Key uncertainties, choices and assumptions
There are fundamental uncertainties in projecting transport demand and simulating future transport systems. Uncertainties in demographic, economic, technological and institutional factors will affect the actual level of future transport demand, the mix of energy supplies consumed, and the associated rates of (for example) CO2 emissions. Knowledge is limited of the complex interactions of technological, cultural and political forces that determine the development of national transport schemes. It is therefore not certain that today's relationships will persist unchanged for the next 25 years. For non- OECD countries, it is also difficult to find reliable and consistent data on which to base future projections.

Data sources

More information about this indicator

See this indicator specification for more details.

Contacts and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Anita Pirc Velkavrh


EEA Management Plan

2010 (note: EEA internal system)


European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Phone: +45 3336 7100