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Page Last modified 03 Jun 2016
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Transport accounts for around a third of all final energy consumption in the EEA member countries and for more than a fifth of greenhouse gas emissions. It is also responsible for a large share of urban air pollution as well as noise nuisance. Furthermore, transport has a serious impact on the landscape because it divides natural areas into small patches with serious consequences for animals and plants.

Energy consumption and emissions of many pollutants from transport fell in 2009, but this reduction may only be a temporary effect of the economic downturn. A more fundamental shift in Europe’s transport system is needed, to prevent impacts from increasing even in times of strong economic growth. For the first time the European Commission has proposed a greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction target for transport. Meeting the 2011 White Paper "Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area" 60 % reduction target requires that this policy integration impulse translates into tangible and determined action in the coming years. The Transport and Environment Reporting Mechanism (TERM) 2011 has delivered the basis for an annual assessment on progress towards these targets by introducing the TERM Core Set of Indicators (TERM-CSIs) and the environmental baseline against which progress will be checked. TERM-CSIs will be used to assess to what extent EU is laying the foundations for greener transport.

GHG emissions from transport down for 2008 and 2009, mainly due to the effects of the economic recession.

Transport, including international maritime and aviation related emissions, was responsible for 24% of all EU GHG emissions in 2009. The new white paper on transport requires EU Member States to reduce GHGs from transport by 60% by 2050, compared with 1990 levels. Since emissions actually increased by 27% between 1990 and 2009, the EU must make an overall 68 % reduction between 2009 and 2050.

Meeting the GHG reduction target means focusing on the cleanest possible technology and on low-carbon fuels, but also on using the most efficient transport modes and getting rid of economic inefficiencies stemming from uncovered external costs, among others. TERM 2011 shows that some efficiency gains have been made following the introduction of mandatory CO2 emissions limits for new passenger cars. New cars in 2010 were approximately a fifth more efficient than in 2000. With regulation on CO2 emissions from cars and vans now agreed, a course towards a fleet of low‑emission vehicles has been set. Final data on CO2 emissions for new passenger cars (reporting year 2010) was published in December 2011, whereas the first full data set for vans (reporting year 2012) will be available in 2013. According to the final data, new cars are becoming significantly more energy efficient each year and that the auto industry as a whole is well on track to meet emission targets.

The share of alternative fuelled cars on the road has grown steadily, comprising more than 5% of the fleet in 2009. Most of these were using liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), while electric vehicles made up 0.02% of the total fleet.

Read more about Climate change.

Energy use in transport significantly higher than in 1990; transport-sector oil dependence unsustainable

Annual energy consumption from transport grew continualy between 1990 and 2007 in EEA member countries. Between 2007 and 2009, the total energy demand from transport fell by 4%, but the upward trend could easily resume with economic growth.

Achieving Europe's targeted 60% CO2 reduction by 2050 compared with 1990 will require the consumption of oil in the transport sector to drop by around 70%. The current 96% transport-sector oil dependence is unsustainable.

Transport is not only the most energy-consuming sector, but it is also, in terms of energy consumption trends, the fastest growing sector. During the past years, transport energy consumption has declined less than in other sectors, and therefore its share has continued to increase; it reached 33% in 2009 for the EU-27 (including international aviation but not international maritime).

Fuel prices are not sending strong signals to encourage more efficient transport choices. The average real price (price level 2005) of unleaded petrol was EUR 1.14 per litre in June 2011, in real terms, 15% higher than in 1980.

Read more about Energy.

Emissions of most air pollutants from transport down since 1990

Significant progress has been made since 1990 in reducing the emissions of many air pollutants from the transport sector. Nevertheless, many cities and other urban areas are facing challenges in meeting concentration limits set in EU legislation for air quality pollutants — road transport in particular makes a large contribution to urban air quality.

Emissions from all transport sectors have declined since 1990 despite the general increase in activity within the sector since this time. Across the EEA-32 (32 memeber countries of the EEA), transport emissions of NOX were reduced between 1990 and 2009 for NOX by 25%, PM2.5 by  27%, SOX by 37%, CO by 75% and NMVOCs by 77%.

The relative importance of non-exhaust emissions has increased, as the introduction of vehicle particulate abatement technologies has reduced exhaust emissions. In 2009, non-exhaust emissions of PM2.5 constituted 25% of emissions from the road transport sectors, compared to just 10% in 1990.

Overall, air quality objectives were exceeded in many areas. For nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which can cause asthma and other respiratory problems, the annual limit values were exceeded at 41% of traffic monitoring stations in 2009. In addition, the daily limit value for PM10 was exceeded at 30% of the traffic sites across the EU-27 (total of the countries of the EU) in 2009.

Two different issues of increasing interest should be highlighted to explain differences between emission trends and expected air quality values. Firstly, the proportion of NOX emitted directly as NO2 from vehicles has been increasing as a result of an increased market penetration of diesel cars in some countries and the fitting of pollution control devices such as particulate traps and oxidation catalysts. This increase in direct NO2 emissions from the traffic sector has an effect on concentration by partly or completely offsetting the effect of the NOX emission reductions. Secondly, there is clear evidence that the actual emissions from vehicles (often termed 'real-world emissions') may exceed the type‑approval emissions for each vehicle type (particularly NOX emissions from diesel vehicles). This is also the case for CO2 emissions.

Read more about Air pollution.

Noise and landscape fragmentation impacts from transport still a challenge

Almost 100 million people were exposed to damaging long-term average levels of noise from road vehicles on major roads.

Roads, railways and motorways are cutting up Europe’s landscape into ever smaller parcels, with serious consequences for biodiversity. Nearly 30% of land in the EU is moderately, highly or very highly fragmented, restricting movement and breeding of many different species. Data also show that fragmentation due to transport infrastructure and urban sprawl constitutes a growing threat and also results in increased accessibility and disturbance.

Read more about Biodiversity.

Read more about Noise.

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