Archive:Sustainable development - transport

This Statistics Explained article is outdated and has been archived - for recent articles on sustainable development indicators see here.

Data from July 2015. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Database.

This article provides an overview of statistical data on sustainable development in the area of sustainable transport. It is based on the set of sustainable development indicators the European Union (EU) agreed upon for monitoring its sustainable development strategy. This article is part of a set of statistical articles for monitoring sustainable development, which are based on the Eurostat publication 'Sustainable development in the European Union - 2015 monitoring report of the EU sustainable development strategy'. The report is published every two years and provides an overview of progress towards the goals and objectives set in the EU sustainable development strategy.

Table 1 summarises the state of affairs in the area of sustainable transport. Quantitative rules, applied consistently across indicators and visualised through weather symbols, provide a relative assessment of whether Europe is moving in the right direction and at a sufficient pace, given the objectives and targets defined in the strategy.

Table 1: Evaluation of changes in the sustainable transport theme (EU-28)

Overview of the main changes

Energy consumption of transport per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) in the EU has fallen in the long term since 2000, with the strongest declines seen in the short-term period since 2008. This downward trend was amplified by the impacts of the economic crisis starting in 2008. It is unclear whether this favourable short-term trend will continue with the economic recovery.

Because transport volumes are strongly dependent on economic activity, the economic crisis has also affected the other indicators in the ‘sustainable transport’ theme. In the short term, modal split and volumes of freight transport have recorded slightly favourable developments. However, no conclusive assessment of these trends can yet be made. The transport impact indicators show a more favourable trend, both in the long and short terms. Greenhouse gas emissions have fallen in the short term. This can be explained partly by smaller transport volumes as well as other factors such as newly implemented transport and environmental regulation policies and technological progress. These underlying reasons can also explain the favourable trends of other transport impact indicators such as people killed by road accidents or emissions of ozone precursors and particulate matter.

Key trends in sustainable transport

Absolute decoupling of energy consumption of transport from economic growth in the short term but not in the long term

Energy consumption of transport per unit of GDP has fallen by 13.1 % since 2000 and by 6.2 % since 2008. The environmental component of this indicator — transport energy use — has only declined since the start of the economic crisis in 2008. Between 2000 and 2013 GDP grew by 16.2 % while transport energy only showed a minor increase. These trends — faster growth of GDP compared with energy consumption — imply a relative decoupling of energy consumption of transport from economic growth in the EU over the period 2000 to 2013. In the short term an absolute decoupling (that is a strong reduction in transport energy consumption while the economy is decreasing at a slower rate) could be observed. It is yet unclear whether transport energy use will rise again with the economic recovery.

No favourable long-term changes in transport modes and mobility

The modal splits of passenger transport and freight transport in 2013 remained similar to their 2000 levels. More than three-quarters of total inland freight transport is carried out on the road — slightly more than in 2000. In the short term a modest shift towards more environmentally friendly transport modes could be observed for freight transport but not for passenger transport. Most passenger journeys were undertaken by car, with a share of 83.2 %, in 2013. Large variation in the shares of each transport mode can be observed across Member States. However, these differences are far stronger within the freight transport sector. In some countries road transport constituted only a half of all tonne-kilometres in 2013. For passenger transport the variation in mode shares are smaller. Volumes of freight transport relative to GDP have dropped by 4.0 % since 2000 and by 7.3 % since 2008. The economic crisis is considered to be the main reason why freight transport volumes have decoupled from GDP in the short term. In contrast, passenger transport volumes have reacted differently to the crisis and have not decoupled from GDP growth since 2008. While GDP dropped slightly, passenger-kilometres fell by even less between 2008 and 2013. Therefore volumes of passenger transport relative to GDP display no (absolute) decoupling so far.

Transport impacts have improved in the short term, but long-term reductions are not yet assured

Greenhouse gas emissions from transport decreased by 2.7 % between 2000 and 2012. Declines, however, were not consistent, with emissions increasing until 2007 and sinking thereafter. Overall, growth was slower between 2000 and 2007 than during the 1990s. However, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transport have been falling at a slower pace compared with other sectors of the economy. Emissions from transport will need to fall sharply to meet the goals stated in the 2011 Transport White Paper. Road accident fatalities have continuously fallen and have been reduced by more than half since 2000. This reduction in fatalities, especially in the short term, is in line with the 2020 target to halve the number of road deaths in Europe set by the European Commission. Reduced average CO2 emissions per kilometre from new passenger cars have contributed to the short-term decline in greenhouse gas emissions from road transport. On average, newly registered cars emitted 14 % less CO2 in 2014 compared with 2009. Emissions of ozone precursors (nitrogen oxides, NOX) and emissions of particulate matter (PM2.5) both fell substantially between 2000 and 2013, by 42.5 % and 43.9 % respectively.

Main statistical findings

Headline indicator

Energy consumption of transport relative to GDP.jpg

Energy consumption of transport relative to GDP

EU energy consumption of transport per unit of GDP showed a long-term decline of 13.1 % between 2000 and 2013 as GDP grew faster than energy use. In the short term, between 2008 and 2013 energy consumption fell while GDP faltered.

Figure 1: Energy consumption of transport relative to GDP, EU-28, 1995–2013 (index 2000 = 100) - Source: Eurostat (online data codes: (tsdtr100), (nrg_100a) and (nama_gdp_k))
Figure 2: Energy consumption of transport, by mode, EU-28, 2013 (%) - Source: Eurostat (online data codes: (tsdtr250))
Figure 3: Energy consumption of transport, by mode, EU-28, 1990–2013 (index 1990 = 100) - Source: Eurostat (online data code: (tsdtr250))
Figure 4: Energy consumption of transport relative to GDP, by country, 2013 (index 2000 = 100) - Source: Eurostat (online data code: (tsdtr100))
Figure 5: Road sector energy consumption, by selected areas, 2010 (% of total energy consumption) - Source: Eurostat for the EU; International Energy Agency for other countries)

The amount of transport energy used to produce one unit of GDP has declined since 2000. In 2013, about 33 grams of oil equivalent for each EUR of GDP were used to satisfy total transport demand in the EU, compared with some 37 grams in 2000. This ongoing, almost steady decline indicates a relative decoupling of energy consumption in transport from economic growth over the long term. This means GDP grew faster than transport energy consumption. Although energy consumption of transport per unit of GDP has declined steadily, the long-term trend is unfavourable because energy use was still slightly higher in 2013 than in 2000. In the short term, an absolute decoupling was recorded between 2008 and 2013 as GDP fell slightly while energy use dropped by a greater amount. During the pre-crisis period, 2000 to 2007, both economic growth and transport energy use were rising almost in parallel in the EU, with GDP only slightly outpacing transport energy use. However, economic growth started to slow first between 2007 and 2008 with the onset of the crisis, and then suffered a severe decrease in the following year. Since 2009, only a slight economic recovery has been observed. In contrast, demand for energy in transport has been falling since 2007. As transport activities, especially in freight transport, are closely related to economic growth, part of this reduction can be explained by the weak economic development during the last five years. Technological changes, for example, related to fuel-efficiency standards, represent another reason for the decreasing energy demand in transport. But as a sustained economic recovery has not yet been observed, it is unclear whether this favourable short-term trend will persist or whether transport energy use will rise again with the economic recovery.

  • Road transport is using the most energy but…

Road transport accounted for 82.6 % of transport energy consumption in the EU in 2013, followed by international aviation with 12.7 %. Since 2000 no substantial shift between the shares of the different transport modes has been observed.

  • …its energy use has fallen in the short term

Road transport, which accounts for almost 83 % of transport energy, has been using less energy since the start of the economic crisis in 2007. Between 2008 and 2013 its energy use fell by 7.4 %. This post-crisis downward trend is also true for all other transport modes. The total energy consumption of transport fell by 7.9 % in this short-term period. Domestic aviation and navigation showed the largest short-term drops of 24.3 % and 26.1 % respectively. However, while international aviation declined sharply between 2008 and 2009 before stabilising, energy consumption in the domestic navigation and domestic aviation transport sector has declined steadily since 2006 and 2007, respectively. Data on transport volumes of inland waterways disclose only parts of a possible explanation, namely that the transport of goods declined between 2006 and 2009. Transport volumes of domestic navigation showed an increasing trend between 2010 and 2013, indicating a possible shift in the energy efficiency of inland waterways [1].

  • How energy consumption of transport relative to GDP varies across Member States

Most Member States recorded decreasing levels of energy consumption per unit of GDP between 2000 and 2013. Only four countries showed increasing energy consumption per unit of GDP (Slovenia, Croatia, Austria and Poland). In four countries energy consumption of transport relative to GDP declined by 20 % or more in the same period (Sweden, United Kingdom, Estonia and Ireland). There are several possible reasons for this variation between Member States. First, specific resources such as labour income are not endowed equally. Hence, the demand for mobility that has to be financed varies (Eurostat, 2012). Different endowments and spending options influence demand for both quantity and quality of transport. Countries with a smaller transport budget may not be able to afford the most efficient technology, leading to higher energy consumption. Furthermore, infrastructure endowments as well as investments for new constructions or extensions vary between countries (OECD, 2013). Finally, statistically energy consumption is measured by fuel sold not by transport activity itself. Therefore, transit countries such as Slovenia, Austria and Luxembourg register higher energy consumption.

  • EU transport energy use trends compared with other countries in the world

Comparable data for road sector energy consumption (relative to total energy consumption) are available on a worldwide scale. As shown in Figure 7.5, the EU road sector has an 18 % share of total energy consumption. Substantially lower shares are reported, for example, in the Russian Federation, China and India, whereas Brazil and the United States show higher shares than the EU. The data reveal that road energy consumption does not only depend on GDP levels, as Brazil has a higher road transport energy consumption share than richer regions, such as the United States and the EU. Indeed, besides income levels, also infrastructure endowments, spending on public transport and population densities can explain differences. As the indicator refers road sector energy consumption to total energy consumption, the absolute level of the latter (e.g. influenced by the heating level in a country) should also be taken into account when interpreting these results.

Transport and mobility

Modal split of freigth transport.jpg

Modal split of freight transport

More than three-quarters of total inland freight was transported by road in 2013. This is slightly more than in 2000 but less than in 2008. A modest modal shift towards more environmentally friendly modes of freight transport can be observed in the short term.

Figure 6: Modal split of freight transport, EU-27, 2000–13 (% in total inland freight tonne-km) - Source: Eurostat (online data code: (tsdtr220))
Figure 7: Modal split of freight transport, by country, 2013 (% in total inland freight tonne-km) - Source: Eurostat (online data code: (tsdtr220))

Choice of transport mode for inland freight transport has not changed substantially since 2000. Inland freight is generally transported by road, rail and inland waterways. In 2013, road transport constituted 75.4 % of all tonne-kilometres performed in the EU-27, followed by rail (17.8 %) and inland waterways (6.7 %). In the short term, rail transport is the only mode to show a constant share. On the other hand, fewer tonne-kilometres were undertaken by road and more freight was transported by inland waterways in 2013 than in 2008. The evaluation of this indicator is based on the share of road transport in total inland freight transport. Road transport shows two clear developments. First, its share increased steadily between 2000 and 2009. However, it lost more than two percentage points in the aftermath of the economic crisis between 2009 and 2013 as other transport modes started gaining ground. Its falling share since 2009 also explains the divergence in the long-term and short-term trends.

  • No long-term turnaround yet observed

Without a clear economic recovery, the reasons for the turnaround in modal split of freight transport in 2008 can only be assumed at this stage. Freight transport tends to be more sensitive to economic conditions than passenger transport. This was the case during the 2007 financial and economic crisis and the following recession, which hit the freight transport sector severely. With only a small increase of freight transport volumes in 2010 and more recent falls in 2011 and 2012, it is still unclear how the different freight transport modes will develop in the future. No substantial long-term shift toward more environmentally friendly transport modes can yet be expected.

  • How modal split of freight transport varies across Member States

In the long term, countries that joined the EU in 2004 and 2007 have recorded the largest increases in the share of road transport in the total inland transport performance. One reason is that the extension and integration of the common market is heavily interlinked with transport demand. The resulting additional demand for transport will overflow onto roads if this form of transport is the easiest to interconnect and cheaper than other modes. This could also explain why the indicator ‘modal split of freight transport’ has not followed a more favourable long-term trend. In the short term, rail transport profited and increased its share as the sector became more competitive and as the crisis hit the road transport sector (Eurostat, 2011). Since 2009, demand for rail transport has increased the most in Belgium, Italy and Portugal. However, in the largest, mostly advanced European countries (such as France and the United Kingdom), no substantial shift towards more environmental friendly transport modes could be observed in the long term between 2000 and 2013. Moreover, the organisation of transport is based on decisions made within the broader logistical system. For example, availability of infrastructure is an important factor in the choice of transport mode. The variation in infrastructure density can also explain the different modal splits across countries [2].

Volume of freigth transport relative to GDP.jpg

Volume of freight transport relative to GDP

Volumes of freight transport relative to GDP have dropped by 4.0 % in the long term since 2000 and by 7.1 % in the short term since 2008. As a result of the economic crisis and the associated fall in GDP, freight transport volume has decoupled from GDP in the short term but not in the long term.

Figure 8: Volume of freight transport relative to GDP, EU-27, 2000–2013 (index 2000 = 100) - Source: Eurostat (online data codes: (tsdtr230) and (nama_gdp_k))

The extent to which freight transport volume by road, rail and inland waterways is coupled to economic growth decreased between 2000 and 2013. Thus, the transport demand intensity (the transport volume associated with one Euro of GDP) was lower in 2013 than in 2000. Over the long-term period between 2000 and 2013, both GDP and transport volumes increased: GDP grew by 16.1 % and transport volumes by 11.5 %. As a result, relative decoupling between transport volumes of the three covered transport modes and economic growth took place. In the short term, between 2008 and 2013, transport volumes fell by more than GDP, resulting in an absolute decoupling. One of the operational objectives of the EU Sustainable Development Strategy is ‘decoupling economic growth and the demand for transport’. So far this has only been observed during the economic crisis. In the period of positive economic growth before 2007, freight transport volumes increased faster than GDP. This trend could be seen at the EU level and for almost half of the Member States, where growth of tonne-kilometres of road transport surpassed GDP growth (European Commission, 2014). These patterns indicate that freight transport is very sensitive to changes in GDP.

  • Road transport and the economic crisis

Most freight transport occurs on roads in the EU. With three out of four tonne-kilometres covered by road transport, this sector has been the most exposed to the economic crisis. It took just a year, from 2008 to 2009, to cancel out six years of growth in European road freight transport. EU inland freight transport activity peaked in 2007 before dropping by almost 13 % and reaching the lowest tonne-kilometre level in six years in 2009. This drop in freight transport holds for all EU regions (Eurostat, 2011).

Modal split of passenger transport.jpg

Modal split of passenger transport

More than 83 % of total inland passenger transport was carried out on the road in 2013. This is more than in both 2000 and 2008. No modal shift towards more environmentally friendly transport modes could be observed.

Figure 9: Modal split of passenger transport, EU-28, 2000–13 (% in total inland passenger-km) - Source: Eurostat (online data code: (tsdtr210))
Figure 10: Modal split of passenger transport, by country, 2013 (% in total inland passenger-km) - Source: Eurostat (online data code: (tsdtr210))

The shares of different transport modes in total inland passenger transport have not changed substantially since 2000. In 2013, 83.2 % of around 5 600 000 million passenger-kilometres travelled in the EU were covered by passenger cars. On the other hand, public transport constituted 16.8 % of total transport movements in the EU (buses and coaches covered 9.2 % and trains 7.6 %). In both the short and long terms, rail and road transport slightly increased their modal shares. On the other hand, fewer passenger kilometres were travelled by busses and coaches in 2013 compared with 2000 and 2008. The evaluation of this indicator is based on the share of road transport in total passenger transport performance. After a rise between 2000 and 2002, the share of road transport in total passenger-kilometres remained stable until 2008. Between 2008 and 2013 shares of car transport first increased and then almost fell back to 2008 levels. This shift is the main reason behind the negative short- and long-term evaluation of the indicator. The other two transport modes show opposing trends. While the shares of train travel mostly increased steadily, those of buses and coaches declined continuously in the long term and short term.

  • How modal split of passenger transport varies across Member States

Compared with freight transport, the modal split of passenger transport has shown less variation across Member States. Road transport shares in most countries are around 80 % of total inland passenger-kilometres. Major shifts can only be observed in the long run since 2000. The largest increases in road transport share were recorded in countries that joined the EU in 2004 and 2007. The economic growth and increase in personal income could be behind this broader road transport activity. In the shorter term, since 2008, most Member States have not recorded substantial changes.

Volume of passenger transport relative to GDP weather symbol 2.jpg

Volume of passenger transport relative to GDP

Volumes of passenger transport relative to GDP have dropped by 6.9 % since 2000 but increased by 0.9 % since 2008. Although the economic development is faltering in the short term, demand for passenger transport has not decreased substantially.

Figure 11: Volume of passenger transport relative to GDP, EU-28, 2000–13 (index 2000 = 100) - Source: Eurostat (online data codes: (tsdtr240) and (nama_gdp_k))

The extent to which passenger transport by car, bus and train is coupled to economic growth decreased between 2000 and 2013. Thus, the transport demand intensity (transport volumes associated with one Euro of GDP) was lower in 2013 than in 2000. Both GDP and transport volumes have increased over the long-term period. As GDP grew by 16.2 % and transport volumes by 8.3 %, only a relative decoupling was observed. In the short term, between 2008 and 2013, both transport volumes and GDP fell slightly, although GDP by a larger amount. As a result, in the short term, a relative decoupling of passenger transport demand from economic growth also took place. So far, an absolute decoupling has not been observed.

  • Passenger volumes and GDP show contradicting developments in recent years

Changes in car, bus and train passenger volumes and GDP were contrary in the last few years. In some periods transport volumes increased and GDP decreased, in other periods the opposite was true. Two conclusions can be drawn from this. First, passenger volumes seem to lag behind GDP developments. Second, passenger transport seems to be less sensitive to economic changes than freight transport.

  • Is the long-term trend driven by diminishing marginal utility of transport expenditures?

The ongoing relative decoupling in the long term is consistent with the peak car travel hypothesis. This theory suggests there is a maximum level of car travel which could be reached in most developed countries in the EU. According to this theory, growing GDP and incomes are not spent on car travel but on other goods and services. However, an analysis of GDP data for individual countries shows that in countries with higher GDP per capita, passenger transport intensities tend to decrease, while countries with lower GDP per capita show a broad range of transport intensities (EEA, 2014, pp.33.

Transport impacts

GHG emissions from transport.jpg

Greenhouse gas emissions from transport

Greenhouse gas emissions from transport in the EU have diminished since 2007, falling back to 1998 levels. Emissions fell by 2.7 % between 2000 and 2012, presumably as a result of the economic downturn and emission regulations in the transport sector.

Figure 12: Greenhouse gas emissions from transport, EU-28, 1990–2012 (million tonnes of CO2 equivalent) - Source: Eurostat (online data code: (tsdtr410))
Figure 13: Greenhouse gas emissions from transport, EU-28, 2000 and 2012 (million tonnes of CO2 equivalent) - Source: European Environment Agency

Transport is responsible for about a fifth of EU greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Between 1990 and 2007, GHG emissions from this sector increased by 26.4 %. In contrast, emissions in other economic sectors were falling. For example, in the energy and agricultural sector GHG emissions fell by 3.5 % and 20.6 % respectively over the same period. Since 2000, GHG emissions from transport have diminished by 2.7 %. In the short term between 2007 and 2012, they decreased by 9.7 % — an average of 2.0 % per year. Thus, growth in GHG emissions from transport has started to slow down: while emissions grew by 17.3 % during the 1990s, they only rose by 7.8 % between 2000 and 2007. Due to the economic crisis in late 2008 and the following general downturn in many economic activities, emissions in the transport sector started to diminish.

  • Different developments in the short- and long-term and across transport modes

The main source of GHG emissions from transport is road transport with a share of 94.4 % in 2012. Between 1990 and 2012 the share of each transport mode remained more or less stable. However, emission reductions have been observed for all transport modes since 2007. In the short term, these reductions have been most acute for aviation, with a 17.2 % reduction since 2007. In the long term, the largest reductions were observed in rail transport, with a fall of 24.9 % since 2000. Compared with other sectors of the economy, the reduction of GHG emissions in the transport sector has been lower. Overall EU emissions have fallen by 10.9 % since 2007 compared to 9.7 % in the transport section.

The GHG emissions figures reported here do not account for emissions of international aviation and international waterways. These so-called international bunkers have also shown falling trends with a drop of 5.5 % for international aviation and 18.6 % for international waterways between 2012 and 2007 (European Commission, 2014, p.130). However, transport emissions, including international aviation but excluding international maritime, are still 20.5 % above 1990 levels, despite their currently decreasing emission trends. Therefore, GHG emissions from transport will need to fall by more than 67 % by 2050 to meet the 2011 Transport White Paper target (EEA, 2014, p.18).

People killed in road accidents weather symbol.jpg

People killed in road accidents

Fewer and fewer people are killed in road accidents in the EU. Fatalities have reduced by 34.5 % since 2008 and have been cut by more than half since 2000. The main reason for this favourable trend is the EU road safety programme.

Figure 14: People killed in road accidents, EU-28, 1991–2013 (number of killed people) - Source: European Commission services, DG Mobility and Transport, CARE database (online data code: (tsdtr420))
Figure 15: People killed in road accidents, by country, 2000–13 (% change from 2000 to 2013) - Source: European Commission services, DG Mobility and Transport, CARE database (online data code: (tsdtr420))

Almost 26 000 people were killed in road accidents in the EU in 2013. This loss is equivalent to the size of a medium town. However, compared with more than 57 000 fatalities in 2000, substantial progress has been made with a yearly reduction rate of 5.9 %. The number of people being killed in road accidents has increased only once in the last 20 years. In the short term, fatalities have fallen by 34.5 % since 2008. This clearly favourable performance has been supported by a yearly drop of more than 10 % in 2009 and 2010. Despite this marked improvement, the ambitious goal set in the European Road Safety Action Programme 2001–2010, to halve fatalities between 2001 and 2010, was not met. The renewal of the Action Programme will nevertheless continue efforts to reduce road fatalities and improve safety. The new objectives are also in line with the goal formulated in the Transport White Paper to reduce fatalities to close to zero by 2050 (European Commission, 2011).

  • How fatalities from road accidents vary across Member States

The majority of Member States still have to further strengthen their efforts to meet the EU’s goal of halving road fatalities at the national level. Between 2000 and 2013, the highest relative reduction of road fatalities was observed in Latvia. In this period, only Malta reported an increase, although on a very low absolute level. The safest Member States, United Kingdom, Denmark and Sweden, have reached three or less than three road fatalities per 100 000 inhabitants by 2012.

  • Road fatalities compared with other countries in the world

On a worldwide scale, fatalities due to road accidents differ widely between countries. Road safety performances measured in fatalities per 100 000 population vary more than nine fold between members of the International Road Traffic and Accident Database (IRTAD) [3]. The highest road fatality rates are recorded in Malaysia and Cambodia. In general, road fatalities have been declining in almost all countries in recent years, however, the ten years between 2011 and 2012 recorded the slowest decline (OECD, 2014).

Average CO2 emissions per km from new cars.jpg

Average CO2 emissions per km from new passenger cars

Newly registered passenger cars emitted 14 % less CO2 on average in 2014 compared with 2009. The fall in this short-term period was largely the result of EU Regulations.

Figure 16: Average carbon dioxide emissions per km from new passenger cars, EU-27, 2009–2014 (gram of CO2 per km) - Source: Eurostat (online data code: (tsdtr450))

In the EU-27 on average, newly registered cars emitted 125 grams of CO2 per kilometre in 2013. This value as well as the short-term trend is well below the target path according to the associated targets set by the EU. Since 2009 this value has fallen on average by 3.0 % each year. Therefore, the new passenger car fleet met the 130 g CO2/km target for 2015 already two years in advance.

  • Regulation is one reason behind the reported emission reductions

New cars are becoming more and more efficient, even though their average mass is still not steadily decreasing. Member States have additionally managed to speed up the reduction of new car CO2 emissions by demand-oriented incentives such as scrappage schemes, extra taxes on cars with high CO2 emissions or purchase grants for low-emission vehicles such as hybrids.

Emissions of ozone precursors from transport weather symbol.jpg

Emissions of ozone precursors from transport

Nitrogen oxides from transport have diminished in the short term and in the long term. In 2013 emissions had fallen by 23.1 % since 2008 and by 42.5 % since 2000.

Figure 17: Emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOX) from transport, EU-28, 1990–2013 (1 000 tonnes) - Source: European Environment Agency (online data code: (tsdtr430))

Between 2000 and 2013, emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOX) from transport decreased by 42.5 %. Emissions from road transport fell by 44.5 %; the non-road sector reduced its emissions by 27.2 % in the long term. In the short term, both sectors show similar downward drifts. Since 2008, road transport NOX emissions have declined by 23.9 %, while non-road transport emissions have fallen by 18.0 %. Road transport accounts for the vast majority of total NOX emissions. However, with the substantial decline of road transport and, accordingly, total NOX emissions, the share of the non-road sector has increased both, in the short and the long term. Non-road transport accounted for 11.6 % of the total NOX emissions in 2000. The 550 000 tonnes emitted in 2013 represent a share of 14.6 % of the total NOX emissions. Clear limit values for nitrogen dioxides and other air pollutants are set in Directive 2008/50/EC on ambient air quality and cleaner air. However, improvements in road transport are directly linked to the implementation of the emission limits for light and heavy duty vehicles. Further policies regulating fuel tax rates and alternative energy sources have also had an effect. In the non-road sector increased activities and emissions in aviation and shipping have helped reducing emissions (EEA, 2014, p.19).

Emissions of particulate matter from transport weather symbol.jpg

Emissions of particulate matter from transport

Quantities of very small particulate matter decreased in the short term as well as in the long term. Emissions shrank by 26.5 % between 2008 and 2013 and by 43.9 % between 2000 and 2013.

Figure 18: Emissions of particulate matter from transport (PM2.5), EU-28, 1990–2013 (1 000 tonnes) - Source: European Environment Agency (online data code: (tsdtr440))

Emissions of very small particulate matter (PM2.5) from transport decreased by 43.9 % between 2000 and 2013. These improvements are mainly due to progress in road transport. This transport mode accounts for 85.8 % of the total PM2.5 emissions but has steadily reduced its output of particulate matter. Non-road transport also showed decreasing volumes of PM2.5 in both, the short and the long term. But while non-road transport exhibited a weaker yearly decrease in the short term from 2008 to 2013 than in the long term from 2000 to 2013, the opposite is true for the road sector. Clear limit values for PM2.5 and other air pollutants are set in the Directive 2008/50/EC on ambient air quality and cleaner air. However, improvements in road transport are directly linked to the implementation of the emission limits for light and heavy duty vehicles. Further policies regulating fuel tax rates and alternative energy sources have also led to reductions (EEA, 2014, p.16).

Context

Why do we focus on sustainable transport?

Transport has played an important role throughout human evolution. In modern society, it is a driver to economic growth and allows people to commute and to travel. Ultimately, transport is a major resource and an important instrument for ongoing European integration. Therefore, transport matters. More than ever, companies and individuals in the EU are taking advantage of the benefits offered by the extension and integration of the common market. This has led to an increase in both the volume and complexity of transport. However, the transport system in the EU is not yet sustainable. Growth in transport activities puts increasing pressure on natural resources and on societies. Emissions of greenhouse gases, air pollutants and noise from transport affect the climate, environment and human health. In addition, increasing energy consumption by the transport sector requires more resources. Moreover, transport infrastructure fragments landscapes and ecosystems on a large scale. Increased transport activities and accidents with fatal outcomes create social costs and time losses due to congestions. Analysing the transport sector in the context of sustainable development reveals the trade-offs between its advantages, for example in enabling job creation, and its negative impacts, such as oil dependency, environmental pressures or road accident fatalities. As more goods are transported and more people take long journeys, an increasing amount of energy is needed. This linkage between transport and economic growth is monitored using the ‘energy consumption relative to GDP’ indicator. This headline indicator reveals the most important trade-off a sustainable transport system has to tackle. Possible solutions to this conflict are new technologies allowing engines and motors to run more efficiently. The issue of transport and mobility covers transport performance and transport modes. While freight- or passenger-kilometres show trends in the basic demand for transport, the mode of transport chosen provides an indication of the possible negative impacts. Because different types of transport modes have different environmental impacts, the modal split can be used to gauge whether a shift towards more environmentally friendly types of transport is under way. Therefore, this issue looks at the driving forces behind the impacts of transport on the environment and on society. Transport activities do have environmental and societal impacts, on both a local and a global scale. Transport greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions influence global climate change; air pollutants harm health and affect building surfaces and the biosphere; noise has negative impacts on people on a local level; and growing transport volumes can cause more congestion and fatalities or injuries. The monitoring of these interlinkages indicates whether the corresponding objectives of the EU Sustainable Development Strategy can be achieved. Indicators in this chapter cover greenhouse gas emissions from transport, including average CO2 emissions of new passenger cars and emissions of ozone precursors and particulate matter. On the social impact level, fatalities from road accidents are also evaluated.

How does the EU tackle sustainable transport?

The EU Sustainable Development Strategy (EU SDS) (Council of the European Union, 2006) dedicates one of its seven key challenges to sustainable transport, with the overall objective to ‘ensure that our transport systems meet society’s economic, social and environmental needs whilst minimising their undesirable impacts on the economy, society and the environment’. The EU SDS operational objectives and targets include:

  • Decoupling economic growth and the demand for transport with the aim of reducing environmental impacts.
  • Achieving sustainable levels of transport energy use and reducing transport greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Reducing pollutant emissions from transport to levels that minimise effects on human health and/or the environment.
  • Achieving a balanced shift towards environment friendly transport modes to bring about a sustainable transport and mobility system.
  • Reducing transport noise both at source and through mitigation measures to ensure overall exposure levels minimise impacts on health.
  • Modernising the EU framework for public passenger transport services to encourage better efficiency and performance.
  • In line with the EU strategy on CO2 emissions from light duty vehicles, the average new car fleet should achieve CO2 emissions of 140g/km (2008/09) and 120g/km (2012) [4].
  • Halving road transport deaths by 2010 compared with 2000 [5].

The Europe 2020 strategy (European Commission, 2010) unites two flagship initiatives under the sustainable growth priority to tackle the issue of sustainable transport:

  • ‘Resource efficient Europe’ supports the shift towards a resource-efficient, low-carbon economy. This flagship initiative provides a framework for actions in many policy areas including transport. One of the key components is a roadmap presenting a vision for a transport system by 2050 that promotes clean technologies.
  • ‘An industrial policy for the globalisation era’ highlights ten key actions for European industrial competitiveness, including a more efficient European transport infrastructure and services.

The European Commission adopted a roadmap including 10 goals and 40 concrete initiatives in form of a Transport White Paper: European Commission, Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area — Towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system, COM(2011) 144 final, Brussels, 2011.

Further reading on sustainable transport


See also

Further Eurostat information

Main tables

Sustainable transport

Dedicated section

Methodology

  • More detailed information on transport indicators, such as indicator relevance, definitions, methodological notes, background and potential linkages, can be found on page 227-256 of the publication Sustainable development in the European Union - 2015 monitoring report of the EU sustainable development strategy.

Notes

  1. See Statistics Explained online, http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Inland_waterways_freight_transport_-_quarterly_and_annual_data.
  2. See Statistics Explained on that issue: http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Inland_transport_infrastructure_at_regional_level.
  3. The International Road Traffic and Accident Database (IRTAD) was established in 1988 by the OECD Road Transport Research Programme to provide aggregated data on a continuous basis. IRTAD includes both a database and a working group contributing to international co-operation on road accident data and its analysis.
  4. These reduction targets have been adapted in 2009 and 2014 by Regulation (EC) No 443/2009, and by Regulation (EU) No 333/2014 of the amending Regulation (EC) No 443/2009. Further, targets for vans have been set by Regulation (EU) No 510/2011 and by Regulation (EU) No 253/2014.
  5. The European Road Safety Action Programme 2011-2020 adapts this reduction target. The new goal is to halve the number of road deaths in Europe between 2011 and 2020.