OSLO: A surge in transport in the European Union is jeopardising goals for cutting greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, the European Environment Agency (EEA) said on 26 February.
Emissions from transport, led by a near-doubling in aviation traffic, rose on average by 25 % across Europe from 1990-2004 even as most EU nations managed to cut emissions from other sectors such as industry or agriculture.
“The environmental performance of the transport sector is still unsatisfactory,” the EEA said in a report covering EU nations along with some details of outsiders Turkey, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
“This tendency threatens both Europe’s and individual EU member states’ progress towards their ... targets” under the UN Kyoto Protocol, it said in a 44-page report. “Therefore, additional policy initiatives and instruments are needed.”“Transport — bottom of the Kyoto class again,” it said.
Transport, based mainly on burning oil, accounts for about a fifth of European emissions of heat-trapping gases from human activities. Cars and trucks account for more than 90 % of transport emissions, ahead of ships, planes and trains.
From 1990-2003, passenger transport volumes in Europe grew by 20%, the EEA said. More people own cars and often drive further, for instance to out-of-town shopping malls. Air transport alone surged by 96 %, aided by cheaper flights.
Under Kyoto, the European Union has to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by 8 % below 1990 levels by 2008-12. Emissions were 0.6 % below 1990 levels in 2004.
Technical advances, such as cleaner, more fuel efficient engines are very important but we cannot innovate our way out of the emissions problem from transport,” said Jacqueline McGlade, head of the Copenhagen-based EEA.
It said road transport was polluting less but air quality in cities was still above EU limits. One in four EU citizens lives less than 500 metres from a road carrying more than 3 million vehicles a year, it said.
And transport was creating other problems, such as noise and slicing up landscapes with new roads. The EEA also said Europe spent 270-290 billion euros in transport subsidies a year, some of them environmentally damaging.
The report said greenhouse gas emissions from transport had grown fastest in Luxembourg, Ireland, the Czech Republic, Portugal and Romania. All had gains exceeding 90 % from 1990-2004. In the same period, emissions fell only in Lithuania, Bulgaria and Estonia.
Emissions from international flights are now excluded from Kyoto but the EU Commission wants them to be part of an emissions trading scheme. It also wants tighter emissions rules for cars, saying industry goals are insufficient.
The EEA said a 2005 study of the EU projected that road and aviation passenger transport volumes would rise by 36% and 105 % respectively between 2000 and 2020, by when the Commission wants deeper cuts in overall emissions.Freight transport was also rising, because more goods were being transported and over longer distances.