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Transport emissions of air pollutants (TERM 003) - Assessment published Feb 2013

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Generic metadata


Transport Transport (Primary topic)

Air pollution Air pollution

air pollutant emissions | ghg emissions | transport indicators | transport | air pollution
DPSIR: Pressure
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
Indicator codes
  • TERM 003
Temporal coverage:
Geographic coverage:
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom

Key policy question: Are emissions of acidifying substances, particulates and ozone precursors from transport decreasing?

Key messages

Between 2009 and 2010, all air pollutant emissions from transport, except NOx, decreased (ranging between 2.5 % and 10 %). During the period 1990 to 2010, the main pollutants that contribute to acidification and particulate and ozone formation have shown a decreasing trend in emissions in the EEA‑32 (with fluctuations in some years). The largest percentage decreases over this period have been for CO (76 %) and non-methane volatile organic compound (NMVOC) (75 %). However, increases in shipping activity since 1990 have offset some of the reductions elsewhere, in particular for SOx, but also for NOx and PM. International shipping currently contributes to nearly 87 % of all transport SOx emissions. The rise of road freight transport explaines most of the increase in NOx in 2010.

Trend in emissions of air pollutants from transport in EEA-32

Note: Transport emissions of PM2.5, CO, SOx, NMVOC, NOx in EEA member countries.

Data source:
Downloads and more info

The contribution of the transport sector to total emissions of the main air pollutants in 2009 (EEA-32)

Note: The graphs report the percentage contribution of transport and not transport sector to total emission of air pollutants in EEA32. Transport sector includes road transport, shipping, aviation and railways.

Data source:
Downloads and more info

Key assessment

Transport is one of the main sources of air pollution in Europe, particularly in cities and urban areas such as towns, airports and sea ports. Key air pollutants emitted from combustion engines in all modes of transport include NOx, PM, CO, and VOCs. However, non-exhaust emissions of PM are also released due to the mechanical wear of brakes, tyres and road surfaces, and are not currently regulated. Emissions of VOCs also come from gasoline evaporation during refuelling and from vehicle and fuel storage tanks.

The Figure shows the trend in emissions of most pollutants from transport in EEA‑32 member countries since 1990. Emissions of different pollutants have been falling but at different rates. The decline has occurred in spite of a growth in transport activities reflected by various indicators such as energy consumption and passenger and freight transport volumes since 1990. The downward trend for most pollutants has followed the progressive introduction of tighter Euro emission standards on new road vehicles supplemented by improvements in fuel quality driven by EU Fuel Quality Directives. Tighter regulations in emissions from new diesel engines for railway locomotives and the sulphur content of marine fuels have also contributed to this downward trend in emissions in more recent years. The trends in emissions of key pollutants NOx and PM2.5 have been tempered by the increased market penetration of diesel vehicles since 1990. Diesel vehicles generally emit more of these pollutants per kilometre than their gasoline equivalents, particularly black carbon which has impacts on health and the climate but also NO2.

Data sources

More information about this indicator

See this indicator specification for more details.

Contacts and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Cinzia Pastorello


EEA Management Plan

2012 2.9.2 (note: EEA internal system)


Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled once per year in October-December (Q4)
European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Phone: +45 3336 7100