Copenhagen, 21 September 2001
Car-free day a reminder that environmental protection is in citizens' hands
Citizens can make a significant contribution to limiting climate change and reducing threats to their own health by cutting back on their car use whenever possible, Domingo Jiménez-Beltrán, Executive Director of the European Environment Agency, stated ahead of tomorrow's Car Free Day in Europe.
"The EEA's latest report on transport and environment, published last week, shows that road traffic is growing rapidly and warns that carbon dioxide emissions from it, as well as from aviation, are threatening Europe's ability to meet its commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions under the Kyoto Protocol,” he said.
"The public is rightly concerned at the prospect of potentially disastrous climate change, but our citizens also need to be aware that they themselves can make a big contribution to limiting it by using their cars less and opting for alternatives such as public transport, walking and cycling in their daily lives. At the same time, public authorities have a duty to ensure that public transport is efficient and user-friendly and that cyclists feel safe.”
Mr Jiménez-Beltrán continued: "Our new report shows that although air quality in towns and cities i generally improving, large numbers of people are still exposed to high pollution levels, especially of health-endangering small particles from vehicle exhausts and summer smog. Every kilometre or mile not driven by car helps here too.
"At present, half of all car trips made are less than 6 km in length, which in congested urban areas can often be covered faster by cycling, while one in 10 trips are less than 1 km, a comfortable walking distance for many people.
"Choosing cars that are fuel efficient is another way for citizens to help protect their environment -- and to save on running costs.
"The fashion for four-wheel drive vehicles with high fuel consumption is a regrettable move away from the greater efficiency that is essential if we are to make our economies more environmentally sustainable. Moreover, these usually large and heavy vehicles intimidate other road users and when driven off-road pose a threat to the ecology of areas of the countryside that have been largely undisturbed until now.”
Notes to editors
- A total of 961 towns and cities across Europe, as well as in Canada and Cambodia, are participating in International Car Free Day on 22 September. See http://www.22september.org
- The EEA's new report on transport and environment is titled TERM 2001: Indicators tracking transport and environment integration in the European Union. The full report in English and a summary and news release in several languages are posted on the EEA web site at http://reports.eea.europa.eu/term2001
- Under the Kyoto Protocol the EU is committed to cutting its emissions of greenhouse gases during the 2008-2012 period to 8% below 1990 levels.
About the EEA
The European Environment Agency aims to support sustainable development and to help achieve significant and measurable improvement in Europe's environment through the provision of timely, targeted, relevant and reliable information to policy making agents and the public. Established by the European Union (EU) in 1990 by Council Regulation 1210/90 (subsequently amended by Council Regulation 933/1999), the Agency is the hub of the European environment information and observation network (EIONET), a network of some 600 environmental bodies and institutes across Europe.
Located in Copenhagen and operational since 1994, the EEA is open to all countries that share its objectives. The Agency currently has 24 member countries. These are the 15 EU Member States; Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein, which are members of the European Economic Area (EEA); and, since 1 August 2001, six of the 13 countries in central and eastern Europe and the Mediterranean area that are seeking accession to the EU -- Bulgaria, Cyprus, Latvia, Malta, Slovenia and the Slovak Republic. Their membership makes the EEA the first EU body to take in the candidate countries.
The remaining seven candidate countries -- the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Turkey -- will become members of the Agency once they, too, ratify their EEA membership agreements. It is anticipated that they will do so over the next few months, taking the Agency's membership to a total of 31 countries.