photo by Barcex (source: Wikimedia Commons)

An EU study has shown that despite efforts to lower greenhouse gas emissions and pollution from transportation within Europe, both have actually increased over the ten year period of 1997-2007.

The report, from the European Environment Agency (EEA), gauges pollution and emissions levels from the transport sector in 32 European countries. While high emitters like passenger air travel, road and air freight grew, the use of rail and inland waterways declined.

Reuters reports:

European passenger airlines are increasing their traffic by about 48 percent each decade. While passenger demand for rail remained steady in western Europe in the 10 years to 2007, it declined heavily in eastern Europe.

Emissions from internal transport in the EU went up by almost 30% from 1990 to 2007, comprising of 19.3% of total emissions; while 72% of all km traveled in EU was made by car.

In regards to pollution, several EU states fell short of European standards. The UK faired particularly poorly in terms of transport, despite an overall reduction in emissions.

From an article in the Ecologist:

The EEA report also highlighted the continued problem of air pollution from the transport sector – road transport is the largest emitter of nitrogen oxides and the second largest contributer of particulate matter (PM), which is particularly harmful for asthma sufferers.

According to an article on EurActiv, efforts to improve transportation infrastructure have made travel and shipping more convenient, but have failed to adequately address pollution and greenhouse gas emissions concerns. The EEA argues that a new policy and vision are needed.

This would include coupling measures ensuring an uptake rate of 50-80% for electric vehicles by 2050 or improved engine design with land-use planning. This could include bringing people closer to services or investing in passenger transport to offer high-quality services, the report foresees.


What’s obvious, but not economic music to middle class European ears, is that we not only use bad modes of travel and shipping, but that we need to travel and ship less. In recent years we may have grown accustomed to exotic fruit and frequent holiday travel, but the environment and climate are paying a price much higher than what’s been advertised.

Additional resources:

Guardian – What has happened to the UK’s environment and transport policy? – Transport sector ‘lagging’ in efforts to cut CO2 emissions