Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Transport and environment: facing a dilemma

The European Environment Agency (part of the EU) has published a study about transportaion, pollution, and economics titled Transport and environment: facing a dilemma.

Green Car Congress has a summary: European Environment Agency Report on the Transportation Dilemma

It goes into a 23% increase in greenhouse emissions from transportation since 1990, in Europe. Those increases have largely offset decreases in greenhouse emissions from other sectors. Since that puts at risk meeting the Kyoto meeting goals on greenhouse emissions reduction, they're
looking at several angles of transportation and reduction of emissions in that sector.

They give these key messages:

Freight transport volumes grow with no clear signs of decoupling from GDP

More goods are transported farther and more frequently. This results in increased CO2 emissions and slows the decline in air pollutant emissions. Relative decoupling of growth in freight volumes from economic growth has only been achieved in the EU-10, where the growth in GDP exceeds the high growth in transport volume.

Passenger transport volumes have paralleled economic growth

Passenger transport volumes have grown in most Member States. Relative decoupling has been achieved in only five new EU Member States. It is, however, likely that with time development in the EU-10 will parallel the older ones.

Greenhouse gas emissions from transport are growing

Transport's energy consumption (and their emission of greenhouse gases) are increasing steadily because transport volumes are growing faster than the energy efficiency of different means of transport. The increase in greenhouse gas emissions from transport threatens European progress towards its Kyoto targets. Therefore, additional policy initiatives and instruments are needed.

Harmful emissions decline, but air quality problems require continued attention

Transport, especially road transport, is becoming cleaner because of increasingly strict emission standards for the different transport modes. Nevertheless, air quality in cities does not yet meet the limit values set by European regulation and still has a major negative impact on human health.

Road freight continues to gain market share

Road transport has gained a greater and rising share of the freight market. This development constitutes a move farther away from the EU objective of stabilising the share at its 1998 level. At present, there are policy initiatives aimed at a modal shift for long-distance and large-scale transport.

Air passenger transport grows, while the share of road and rail remain constant

Changing the modal split towards rail transport and away from passenger cars is not being achieved. There are still no signs of this common transport policy goal being met. Both modes are growing at the same rate as total passenger transport volume. In addition, the share of aviation is increasing whereas the share of bus and coach is decreasing.

Developments in fuels contribute to emission reductions

All countries where data are currently available have met the 2005 limit value for low sulphur content in road transport fuels. The remaining ones are expected to hit their targets as well. In addition, some countries have already achieved the 2009 target on zero sulphur fuels. Moreover, steps towards sulphur reduction are being taken in other modes. However, much work remains to be done.

The share of biofuels is increasing, although currently reported shares are below the targets of the biofuels directive.

Car occupancy and lorry load factors decline in countries for which data are available

There are few data available on occupancy rates and load factors. Data for those countries show average occupancy rates for passenger cars are lower than a decade ago. Growing car ownership, the decreasing average size of households and disperse spatial patterns are the main causes for low occupancy rates. The limited data available also show a trend towards poorer use of heavy goods vehicle capacity. Apparently, the higher transport costs, resulting from lower utilisation, are exceeded by benefits such as reduced production costs. A reverse of these market trends could reduce environmental impact.

New technology can cut emissions and fuel consumption, but more effort is needed to achieve CO2 targets

New engine and vehicle technologies have entered the market, reducing pollutant emissions and improving fuel efficiency. Although the fuel efficiency of passenger cars has improved in recent years, more effort is required from car manufacturers to meet the goals of the voluntary CO2 commitment. Additional effort will be required by all stakeholders to bring the Community's objective of 120 g of CO2/km within reach.

Price structures are increasingly aligned with and yet well below external costs level

There are a number of initiatives to align price structures better with the external impact of transport. However, transport prices are generally well below the marginal social cost level. This is resulting in over-consumption of transport. Further improvement of transport pricing is an opportunity to better balance the benefits and negative impacts of transport.