Transport is a vital sector but our current mobility system is simply not sustainable. Decisive policies, smart investments and changes in demand can trigger a vital shift towards cleaner transport modes and reduce the sector’s impact on the environment, climate and our health.

Transport demand in Europe increased by...


in passenger travel

between 2000 and 2019


in air travel

between 2000 and 2019


in car transport

between 2000 and 2019


in freight transport

between 2000 and 2019

Source: Decarbonising road transport — the role ofvehicles, fuels and transport demand

Environmental impacts of maritime transport

With 77% of European external trade and 35% of all trade by value between EU Member States moved by sea, maritime transport is a key part of the international supply chain and vital for the European economy.

At the same time, the sector’s activities impact the environment, climate, and health and well-being of EU citizens. Ships emit considerable amounts of greenhouse gases, air pollutants and underwater noise. The spread of non-indigenous species and water pollution are also concerns.

According to the joint EEA-EMSA report, the maritime sector has taken measures to reduce its environmental impacts. Still, more is needed to achieve sustainability, especially since the industry is expected to grow strongly over the coming decades.

Aviation’s environmental and climate impact increases

Aviation has produced economic benefits, stimulated innovation and improved connectivity within Europe. But unfortunately, this growth has also increased negative impacts on climate change, noise and air quality. The COVID-19 pandemic caused a brief respite from these impacts as aviation travel drastically decreased. These numbers are growing again, though.

Despite improvements in technology, operations, airports and market-based measures, the aviation sector’s impacts on the environment, climate and people’s health continue to increase.

These are some of the findings of the joint EEA-EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) report on the enviromental impacts of the aviation sector.

Train or plane? The most sustainable is...

Our transport and environment report (TERM) 2020 looks into the impacts of rail and air travel, both of which are a big  part of Europe’s passenger transport sector. It concludes that rail travel is the best and most sensible mode of travel, apart from walking or cycling. 

Aviation’s emission impacts are much higher on a passenger-kilometre basis. But flying is not necessarily the most harmful choice. Travel by a petrol or diesel-powered car, especially if traveling alone, can be more harmful.

A shift from air to rail travel can play a crucial role in helping the EU meet its objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transport by 90% by 2050 compared with 1990.

How can Copernicus help?

What if the ground is moving? Are our road and rail transport networks stable enough?

Copernicus is the European Union's earth observation programme. It combines detailed geospatial data obtained through satellites and from ground observations.

Information on surface displacement due to geohazards or human activity is provided by the European Ground Motion Service (EGMS), provided by the EEA, within the Copernicus Land Monitoring Service.

This can be used to monitor subsidence affecting airport runways, railways, or breakwaters in ports. It enables the shift from air to rail travel by helping to identify the best routes and tracks.

More information