Press Release

Transport continuing to increase pressure on Europe's environment

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Press Release Published 11 Sep 2001 Last modified 28 Jun 2016
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Copenhagen, 11 September 2001

Pressure on the environment caused by transport, especially rapidly-growing road and air transport, is continuing to increase despite efforts by policymakers and the transport sector itself to take greater account of environmental concerns, a new European Union report shows.

The European Environment Agency is publishing the report, TERM 2001, ahead of a joint meeting of EU ministers of transport and environment this weekend in Belgium.

"Overall, the report shows that transport in the EU is becoming less and not more environmentally sustainable,” EEA Executive Director Domingo Jiménez-Beltrán said. "Progress towards a more sustainable transport system has become imperative and efforts to integrate environmental considerations into transport policy have to be redoubled.”

Transport contributes to damage to the environment and human health by emitting significant levels of toxic pollutants and "greenhouse” gases, generating wastes and noise and fragmenting the countryside.

Most of the report's key indicators signal unfavourable trends or show that there is still a long way to go to reach policy targets for "greening” transport.

The report warns that current trends point away from achieving the EU's recently-announced objectives of breaking the link between economic growth and growth in transport, and of returning the market shares taken by rail, maritime and inland waterway transport to 1998 levels by 2010.

As a shift towards greater use of cars and planes continues, passenger and freight transport is growing at a faster rate than the economy as a whole, bringing increasing threats to the environment and human health, it says.

For example, growth in energy use and greenhouse gas emissions from transport is jeopardising the EU's ability to meet its targets under the Kyoto Protocol on combating climate change.

But there are also some positive trends, mainly due to advances in technology and fuels that have made new road vehicles less polluting. A significant improvement in urban air quality has resulted, although in many cities air quality still poses health risks and further improvement is needed.

The energy efficiency of car transport has improved slightly over the past two decades, although low occupancy rates and the use of heavier and more powerful vehicles have partly offset fuel efficiency gains in new cars.

There has been no increase, however, in the energy efficiency of freight transport by road and little corresponding change in rail or shipping. Air transport remains the least energy efficient mode of transport despite technological advances.

The report argues that better integration of environmental considerations into all areas of transport policy-making is required to achieve progress towards a more environmentally sustainable transport system.

Most EU countries have developed integrated transport and environment strategies or are doing so, but many of these have yet to be finalised, funded and implemented.

In addition, national strategies are not always in line with EU strategies and policies. Most notable is the failure to implement the goal of integrating the costs of environmental damage, accidents and congestion into the prices charged for each mode of transport.

However, there are signs of progress in that several Member States are now moving towards tax structures that differentiate between the various modes on the basis of their environmental costs, although implementation of these still faces many barriers.

Another finding is that decisions on transport infrastructure are still being made mainly in response to problems of traffic bottlenecks, an approach that favours the expansion of road and airport infrastructure.

"The report shows that to restrain the growth in transport, efforts are also needed in other sectors,” Mr Jiménez-Beltrán said.

He added: "Action is required in the tourism sector since tourism travel is the fastest growing category of passenger transport. And industry has an essential role to play in the development of more transport-efficient production and distribution systems and in the improvement of freight logistics.”

TERM 2001's findings and projections include the following:

  • Between 1990 and 1998, transport sector emissions of acidifying gases fell by 20% and emissions of the pollutants that cause ground-level ozone "smog” -- oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) -- by 25%. However, extra efforts are needed - also in other sectors - to reach EU targets for reducing emissions of these substances.
  • Energy consumption by the transport sector has increased by 47% since 1985, compared with 4.2% for the other economic sectors.
  • Transport is responsible for 24% of the EU's total man-made emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas, with transport by road alone accounting for an 84% share of this. CO2 emissions from transport increased by 15% between 1990 and 1998.
  • The number of cars scrapped each year in the EU's 15 current Member States is expected to grow from 11.3 million in 1995 to 17 million in 2015.
  • Transport infrastructure is increasingly fragmenting the EU countryside. The length of the motorway network has increased by more than 70% since 1980, while that of conventional railway lines and inland waterways has fallen by about 9%.
  • The EU car fleet grew by 64% between 1980 and 1998 to 451 cars per 1,000 inhabitants.
  • Trucking now accounts for 43% of freight transport in terms of tonnage carried and distance travelled (total tonne-kilometres), against 33% in 1980. Short sea shipping has become quite successful for longer distances, accounting for 42% of total tonne-km.
  • "External” costs of transport -- covering environmental damage, accidents and congestion -- are estimated at 8% of gross domestic product (GDP). Cars, trucks and planes have the highest external costs per unit transported. Several countries are establishing tax or charge systems to include these costs in transport prices.
  • Transport fatality rates are falling, but road accidents still claim 41,000 lives a year. The number of people injured is about 40 times the level of fatalities and is falling more slowly than the fatalities total.
  • It is estimated that more than 30% of the population is exposed to traffic noise levels that can be annoying or harmful to health.

The full report in English is posted on the EEA's web site at

Notes to editors

- The full name of the report is TERM 2001: Indicators tracking transport and environment integration in the European Union. It is the second report to result from the EU's transport and environment reporting mechanism (TERM). The TERM process is steered jointly by the European Commission (Directorate-General for Energy and Transport, Directorate-General for Environment, Eurostat) and the EEA.

- TERM statistics are published by Eurostat, the EU's Statistical Office, in Transport and environment: statistics for the transport and environment reporting mechanism (TERM) for the European Union, 2001.

- EU ministers with responsibility for transport and the environment will hold an informal joint meeting on 14-16 September 2001 in Leuven and Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium at the invitation of the Belgian presidency of the EU. The meeting will focus on the need to integrate environment and transport policies further with the aim of creating a more sustainable transport system.

- EU heads of state and government, at their June 2001 summit meeting in Gothenburg, Sweden, singled out transport as one of four priority areas for sustainable development policy and called for action to bring about a significant decoupling of transport growth from economic growth, in particular through a shift from road to rail, water and public passenger transport.

- The European Commission, in its July 2001 political guidelines for its forthcoming White Paper on the future of the EU's common transport policy, recommended action to return the market shares of rail, maritime transport and inland waterways to their 1998 levels by 2010.

- 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.




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