Technology not enough to cut transport emissions, says EEA

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EU policies focusing mainly on improving vehicle technology and fuel quality are not enough to reduce the transport sector’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, argues the European Environment Agency (EEA).

To address transport demand, policy measures “must go beyond the transport sector itself and be introduced into sectors of the economy such as households, industry and services, within which the demand for transport actually originates,” states the EEA report, which was presented to the European Parliament’s Committee on Climate Change on 3 March 2008.

The report was released on the same day as EU environment ministers met in Luxembourg to discuss proposed new measures to reduce CO2 emissions from cars.

The annual EEA report provides emission data by transport sector and monitors the effectiveness of EU attempts to integrate transport and environment strategies. This year’s report aims in particular to explore the options for climate change mitigation via transport-oriented policies. It concludes that voluntary commitments by car manufacturers to improve efficiency in vehicles “have not resulted in sufficient gains”. 

“Transport has been a free-rider for too long when it comes to the fight against global warming and carbon emissions,” said EEA Executive Director Jacqueline McGlade. “Governments and citizens need to rethink radically their approach to transport policy – if nothing else, out of self-concern in protecting their health. We cannot continue to give privileges to less efficient transport modes,” she added. 

According to the EEA, total EU-27 CO2 emissions between 1990 and 2005 would have fallen by 14% instead of 7.9% if transport sector emissions had respected the same reduction trends as society as a whole. Furthermore, the agency notes that as passenger volumes steadily increase and freight transport grows faster than the economy, the movement of goods is becoming less efficient, despite technological progress. 

Last week, the “world’s cleanest ship”, the Victoria, was put on show in the port of Brussels as one of the outcomes of EU-funded research on reducing the environmental impact of inland navigation. The engine of the ship has been modified in such a way as to substanially reduce several of its emissions (by up to 98%), while a special navigation system helps to optimise the route and speed to slash fuel consumption.

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