Campaigners warn over failure to curb Europe’s ‘runaway’ transport emissions | Air pollution

The failure to tackle Europe’s “runaway” transport emissions could lead to the sector pumping out nearly half of the continent’s planet-heating pollution by 2030, a report has found.

Driven by polluting cars and pushed higher by the growing thirst for flights, transport emissions in Europe have grown 26% since 1990 – even as efforts to clean up other areas of the economy have led to an overall emissions fall.

If policies continue to clean up transport slower than other sectors, such as electricity and industry, the greenhouse gases emitted when Europeans move around could make up 44% of the continent’s total emissions by the end of the decade, according to modelling from the campaign group Transport & Environment (T&E).

Transport was the “problem child” of Europe’s climate efforts, said William Todts, the executive director of T&E. “The good news is transport emissions in Europe have peaked. The bad news is other sectors are decarbonising three times faster.”

The report estimated that current policies would cut transport emissions by 8% between now and the end of the decade, with legacy car fleets continuing to burn oil, shipowners facing little incentive to run their operations more efficiently, and the expansion of airports and demand for flights offsetting gains from the uptake of greener fuels. It called on policymakers to “make the job easier” by stopping demand for transport from growing.

Among the recommendations in the report were shifting taxes on company cars to speed up the switch to electric vehicles, encouraging the shipping industry to use efficient technologies, cutting down on business flights, and building fewer roads and airports.

Giulio Mattioli, a transport researcher at the University of Dortmund who was not involved in the study, said the results of the analysis seemed plausible and the policy recommendations sensible.

He said: “The report highlights something very important, namely that transport emissions have grown over time, unlike emissions in other sectors, and that this growth is mainly due to an increase in travel activity, which has more than offset technological improvements.”

“This is something that is rarely mentioned in public, political and media debates – and my impression is that the public is largely unaware of this.”

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The report also found that current policies to cut emissions in the transport sector would not be enough to reach climate neutrality by 2050. Compared with their levels in 1990, which countries have taken as their baseline for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, transport emissions in Europe are on track to fall 25% by 2040 and 62% by 2050.

Mattioli said: “Some argue that it is no big deal if transport emissions do not decline or even increase, as we are making progress in other sectors. This report shows that … this argument will be more and more difficult to defend.”


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