EEA Calls for Transformational Change in Transport Sector

19 December 2016

The European Environment Agency (EEA) has released a report titled, ‘Transport and Environmental Reporting Mechanism (TERM) 2016: Transitions towards a more sustainable mobility system,’ which examines the progress of EU member States towards targets on improving environmental performance in transport. The report stresses that transformational changes are necessary to reconcile high levels of human development with environmental sustainability, and makes recommendations on behavioral, planning and technological changes for making transport more sustainable.

The report estimates that transport activity across Europe will grow by 40% between 2010 and 2050, with the aviation sector experiencing the fastest growth and freight transport growing by 58%. Under this scenario, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transport are expected to increase to 15% above 1990 levels between 2030 and 2050, a figure that is slightly higher than the EU’s proposed 60% reduction target by 2050. The report indicates that transport contributes 25% of the EU’s GHG emissions and is the only major economic sector where GHG emissions are higher than their 1990 levels.

Observing that ever increasing demand for transport has historically offset beneficial technological advances, the report stresses that “technical solutions alone are not enough to ensure that environmental impacts from transport will be reduced.” It recommends both incremental and transformational changes to make the EU’s mobility system more sustainable and meet decarbonization and other environmental goals for the transport sector. Recommended incremental changes include improving the fuel efficiency of cars, planes and ships.

Proposed transformational changes focus on changes to human consumption, habits and lifestyle choices to transform how society uses transport, such as avoiding unnecessary trips or cycling or walking, and the introduction of electric and self-driving vehicles. The report also identifies interdependencies between the transport sector on one hand, and the food, land use and tourism sectors on the other, explaining that barriers and “lock-ins” can delay a shift to a more sustainable mobility system. For instance, the report states the EU’s car-dependency, continued dependence on fossil-fuel powered internal combustion engines, and focus on investments in road transport infrastructure hinders efforts to shift towards more sustainable transport.

The EEA publishes the TERM reports annually. The report provide European data, assess key trends, and examine the transport sector’s progress on environmental policy targets. The report also highlights other transport related environmental challenges, including air pollution, biodiversity fragmentation, inefficient use of urban space, traffic congestion and noise.

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