Sustainable Transport

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The Commission set out a ten-year strategy on sustainability in the transport sector in its 2001 White Paper on Transport Policy. The strategy focused predominantly on balancing the different modes of transport, harmonising legislation within specific sectors, and enhancing transport safety. But, in an enlarged EU, under pressure from accelerating globalisation, high oil prices and transport-targeted terrorist attacks, the EU is looking to adapt its initial strategy.

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Overview

Due to its potentially detrimental impact on the environment and public health, the transport sector poses one of the greatest policy challenges for sustainable development within the EU. The environmental impacts of transport activity include:

  • emissions of greenhouse gases that are widely perceived as the main cause of global warming
  • emissions of compounds that make the ozone layer thinner, causing damaging infiltration of ultraviolet radiations
  • More than half of all local and regional air pollution is generated by transport-related activities 

Finally, transport activity is a major user of non-renewable energy resources. In the EU, the transport sector is responsible for 31% of energy consumption.

Most of the above mentioned environmental problems are related to road transport, which is the dominant mode of transport in the EU. Road transport accounts for about 84% of CO2 emissions from transport.

In addition to the indirect health impact from noise and air pollution, transport activity is responsible for serious injuries and death through traffic accidents. Accidents occur mainly in road transport. In the EU, about 42,000 people are killed in road accidents every year. The direct costs of car accidents are estimated at €45 billion annually. If all indirect costs (such as medical costs) are taken into consideration, this figure rises to €160 billion.

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