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Reducing emissions from transport

Transport is responsible for around a quarter of EU greenhouse gas emissions making it the second biggest greenhouse gas emitting sector after energy. Road transport alone contributes about one-fifth of the EU's total emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas. While emissions from other sectors are generally falling, those from transport have continued to increase until 2008 when transport emissions started to decrease on the back of increased efficiency of passenger cars and slower growth in mobility. The EU has policies in place to reduce emissions from a range of modes of transport, such as including aviation in the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) and CO2 emissions targets for cars.


The transport sector has the second biggest greenhouse gas emissions in the EU. More than two thirds of transport-related greenhouse gas emissions are from road transport. However, there are also significant emissions from the aviation and maritime sectors and these sectors are experiencing the fastest growth in emissions, meaning that policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are required for a range of transport modes.

Greenhouse gas emissions production per sector.
By sector:
Energy industries29,2%
Residential and commercial12,5%
By mode:
Road Transport71,9%
Total Civil Aviation12,8%
Total Navigation13,9%

EU28 greenhouse gas emissions by sector and mode of transport, 2012

Greenhouse gas emissions in other sectors decreased 15% between 1990 and 2007 but emissions from transport increased 36% during the same period. This increase has happened despite improved vehicle efficiency because the amount of personal and freight transport has increased. Since 2008 greenhouse gas emissions from transport have started to decrease. Despite this trend transport emissions were in 2012 still 20.5 % above 1990 levels and would need to fall by 67 % by 2050 in order to meet the 2011 Transport White Paper target reduction of 60% compared to 1990.

EU greenhouse gas emissions from transport and other sectors, 1990-2012
YearEnergy Industries (*)Industry (***)Transport (**)ResidentialCommercial / InstitutionalOther (****)Total

Notes: (*) Excluding LULUCF (Land Use, Land – Use Change and Forestry) emissions and International Bunkers (**) Excluding International Bunkers (international traffic departing from the EU) (***) Emissions from Manufacturing and Construction and Industrial Processes (****) Emissions from Fuel Combustion in Agriculture/Forestry/Fisheries, Other (Not elsewhere specified), Fugitive Emissions from Fuels, Solvent and Other Product Use, Waste, Other.

EU greenhouse gas emissions from transport and other sectors, 1990-2012

A wide range of EU policies to lower emissions

As greenhouse gas emissions have been increasing for most modes of transport, the EU has so far put a range of policies in place aiming to lower emissions from the sector. These include:

  • aviation has been included in the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS);
  • a strategy is in place to reduce emissions from cars and vans, including emissions targets for new vehicles;
  • a strategy for reducing heavy duty vehicle fuel consumption and CO2 emissions;
  • a target is in place to reduce the greenhouse gas intensity of fuels;
  • rolling resistance limits and tyre labelling requirements have been introduced and tyre pressure monitors made mandatory on new vehicles;
  • legislation encouraging national authorities to deploy gas and electricity infrastructure; and,
  • public authorities are required to take account of life time energy use and CO2 emissions when procuring vehicles.

In addition to these measures influencing vehicle emissions, the EU also supports stronger use of public transport as well as low-emission means of transport, such as cycling, through various initiatives.

Transport emissions in the longer term

Significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from transport are required if the EU is to achieve its long-term goals. Therefore, the Commission carried out a study to investigate the sorts of policies and technologies that are needed to achieve substantial emission reductions by 2050.

You can find the full reports and an interactive tool showing potential greenhouse gas emission reductions from different technologies and policies at the website for the "EU Transport GHG: Routes to 2050?" project.