Press Release

Transport growth - an environmental dilemma for Europe

Press Release Published 28 Mar 2006 Last modified 13 Apr 2011
4 min read
Polluting emissions from transport continue to impact on health and undermine progress towards Kyoto targets, says a new report from the European Environment Agency (EEA).

PRESS RELEASE - Copenhagen, Tuesday, 28th March, 2006

"Transport and environment 2005: Facing a Dilemma", launched today in Brussels, shows that more goods and passengers are being transported farther and more frequently across Europe. While greenhouse gas emissions from other sectors decreased, those from transport increased in the EEA countries by more than 22 % between 1990 and 2003.

Ireland has experienced an increase of 130 % in greenhouse gas emissions from transport - excluding aviation and maritime - a reflection of its economic growth. Germany, on the other hand, has experienced only a 5 % increase, consistent with its economic experience, the report says.

Air passenger transport grew at the fastest rate (96 % between 1990 - 2002), while the share of road and rail remained constant. Relative decoupling of growth in freight transport volumes from economic growth has only been achieved in the EU-10 group of new Member States, where transport volumes grew less than the economy as a whole. Relative decoupling of passenger transport volumes has been achieved in the last six years for which data is available for the EEA countries as a whole, but not for all member countries every year.

"Transport, especially road transport, is becoming cleaner because of increasingly strict emission standards and improved technology. However increases in demand continue to outstrip positive innovations. We are locked into patterns that are not easily changed in the short term. Long term policy initiatives are needed to encourage people to change their habits," says Professor Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director of the EEA.

Transport is not the only reason for poor air quality. However by exposing people to emissions at street level it can have a serious impact on the health of the general public. Moreover, traffic is a significant source of emissions of fine and ultra-fine particles in cities and there is growing evidence that these particles have serious effects on health.

The report foresees that many European cities will continue to fail air quality limits. Ozone incidents - when pollution interacts with sunlight to cause a high level of Ozone (O3) in the lower atmosphere - are frequent now, and air quality limits set for ozone in 2010 are widely exceeded already. The impacts on health are severe: estimates suggest that as many as 370, 000 people die prematurely every year in Europe due to air pollution.

And while research into alternative fuels is important, use of so called 'bio-fuels', on a scale where it will significantly reduce total greenhouse gas emissions, will not be a reality for many years. In the meantime, transport will continue putting pressure on the continent's environment, the report says.

Notes to the editor:

Web Links:
Term report:

Key Facts:

Passenger transport
An increase of 30% between 1990 - 2002

Freight transport
An increase of 34% between 1990 - 2002

Air transport
An increase of 96% between 1990 -- 2002 in the 23 EEA member states studied: the EU-15 plus Czech Republic, Slovenia, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Norway, Iceland and Turkey), based on passenger kilometres.

Refers to the 10 newest members of the EU who joined in 2004: Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia.

Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

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

Fine or (PM10) Particulates: describes the fraction of airborne particulate matter that is less than 10 microns in size. Fine particles are of the greatest concern since they are capable of being easily transported over long distances on currents of air. Fine particles may also be drawn into the respiratory airways and the smallest particles can penetrate the very deepest parts of the lung. PM10 and other particulate matter may vary considerably in chemical and physical composition. The principal sources of these particles are combustion processes, including traffic and industry.

Ozone is formed by a 'cocktail' of pollutants - nitrogen dioxide and volatile organic compounds - which break down due to the action of sunlight, releasing highly reactive atomic oxygen (O) which reacts with atmospheric oxygen (O 2 ) to form ozone (O 3 ). At lower levels of the atmosphere Ozone is an irritant to the eyes and the respiratory system.

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 through the provision of timely, targeted, relevant and reliable information to policy makers and the public.

Contact information

For media enquiries contact:

Brendan Killeen
Information Officer
Phone: +45 33 36 72 69
Mobile: +45 23 68 36 71

Marion Hannerup
Head of Corporate Affairs and Communication
Phone: +45 33 36 71 60
Mobile: +45 51 33 22 43

For public enquiries:

EEA Information Centre

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