Transport connects people, cultures, cities, countries and continents. It is one of the main pillars of the modern society and economy, allowing producers to sell their products across the world and travellers to discover new places. Transport networks also ensure access to key public services, such as education and health, contributing to a better quality of life. Connecting to transport helps boost the economy in remote areas, creating jobs and spreading wealth.
Despite temporary slowdowns, the demand for transport of both passengers and goods has been growing steadily and is projected to continue. As such, more and more cars are sold in Europe, the majority of which are diesel powered. And while engines are becoming more efficient, this growth means GHG emissions are a major concern.
Air and noise pollution from transport cause a wide range of health problems, with road transport and diesel vehicles in particular the biggest contributors. The European Union and its Member States are taking a series of measures to reduce the impact of transport on health with some success. Innovative solutions and local action can improve the situation further.
Ingredients for the meals we eat at home or in restaurants come from near and afar. In an increasingly urbanised and globalised world, the food produced in the countryside needs to be transported to the city. Much focus has been put on reducing ‘food miles’, which can be a relevant but sometimes limited concept. A smarter and cleaner transport system would solve only part of the issue. A wider systemic analysis of the entire food system is in order.
Flying off for a weekend break, cotton t-shirts made in Bangladesh, roses from Kenya… These are some of the products available to us in a well-connected, globalised world. Aviation and shipping contribute to economic growth, but they also lead to impacts on human health, the climate and the environment. Faced with future projections of growth, these two sectors have started to explore ways to reduce their impact.
Transport networks have become a commonplace feature of the European landscape. They connect people, boost economic activity and provide access to key services, but they also introduce barriers between natural areas, while their use emits pollutants and introduces non-local species to ecosystems. Strong policy measures and a network of green spaces can help preserve and protect Europe’s natural wealth.
From walking and electric cars to massive freight vessels and high speed trains, a wide range of transport options exist. Many factors, including price, distance, availability of infrastructure and convenience, can play a role when selecting a transport mode. Car rides are the preferred mode for passenger transport in Europe. But even then, some options are cleaner than others. How can we opt for greener choices?
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe's environment.
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