Press Release

Is Europe's transport getting greener? Partly

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Press Release Published 12 Apr 2010 Last modified 03 Jun 2016
3 min read
While technological advances produce cleaner vehicles, more and more passengers and goods are travelling further distances, thereby offsetting efficiency gains. Based on analysis of long-term trends, a new European Environment Agency (EEA) report calls for a clear vision defining Europe's transport system by 2050 and consistent policies to achieve it.

On its tenth anniversary, the EEA's TERM report presents an overview of transport's impact on the environment, built on an analysis of 40 policy-relevant indicators. The report's findings for the period 1997–2007 present a mixed picture, with some improvements in air pollutants and serious concerns regarding persistent growth in transport’s greenhouse gas emissions.

'Over the last ten years we have concentrated on measures to improve mobility whilst decoupling transport emissions from economic growth. Today, we can see that the extensive investment in transport infrastructure has enabled us to travel further to meet our daily needs, but has not led to a decrease in the amount of time that we are exposed to noise, congestion and air pollution,' said Professor Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director of EEA. 'In the future we will need to focus not only on the mode of transport, but also the reasons why people choose to travel, because ultimately mobility is inextricably linked to our quality of life.'

Transport, including international aviation and maritime transport, accounts for around a quarter of total EU greenhouse gas emissions. Unlike some sectors, transport's impact on the environment continues to be closely linked to economic growth.

Trends and findings

  • Freight transport tends to grow slightly faster than the economy, with road and air freight recording the largest increases in the EU-27 (43 % and 35 %, respectively, between 1997 and 2007). The share of rail and inland waterways in the total freight volumes declined during that period.
  • The current economic slowdown has reduced transport volumes but transport is expected to resume its growth as soon as the economy starts to grow again.
  • Passenger transport continued to grow but at a slower rate than the economy. Air travel within the EU remained the fastest growth area, increasing 48 % between 1997 and 2007. Car journeys remained the dominant mode of transport, accounting for 72 % of all passenger kilometres in the EU-27.
  • In EEA countries, greenhouse gas emissions from transport (excluding international aviation and maritime transport) grew by 28 % between 1990 and 2007, and now account for around 19 % of total emissions.
  • Despite recent reductions in air pollutant emissions, road transport was the largest emitter of nitrogen oxides and the second largest contributor of pollutants forming particulate matter in 2007.
  • Among 32 EEA countries, only Germany and Sweden are on track to meet their 2010 indicative targets for biofuels use.
  • Road traffic remains by far the largest source of exposure to transport noise. The number of people exposed to damaging noise levels, especially at night, is expected to increase unless effective noise policies are developed and implemented in full.

Notes to the editor

Background on the report

The EEA report, 'Towards a resource-efficient transport system' is the annual publication for the EEA Transport and Environment Reporting Mechanism (TERM), which monitors the progress and effectiveness of efforts to integrate transport and environment strategies.

TERM reports have been published since 2000 and offer important insights that can help the development of EU policies. The report aims to cover all EEA member countries.

About the European Environment Agency (EEA)

The EEA is based in Copenhagen. The Agency aims to help achieve significant and measurable improvement in Europe's environment by providing timely, targeted, relevant and reliable information to policymakers and the public.

EEA member countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom.

Contact information

For media inquiries:

Ms Gülçin Karadeniz, Press officer
Phone: +45 3336 7172
Mobile: +45 2368 3653

Ms Iben Stanhardt, Press officer
Phone: +45 3336 7168
Mobile: +45 2336 1381