EU Science Hub

Greener urban mobility plans may cut Europe's urban CO₂ emissions by up to 8.8%

Mar 07 2014

A series of sustainability measures – if implemented – may reduce urban transport CO emissions by up to 8.8% in 2030, according to a report by the JRC. Introducing congestion charging zones, reverting to teleworking and conference calls instead of commuting as well as reallocating road lanes to public transport, are the three measures that top the list of 21. Together, these would account for a reduction of 18.3 million tons of C0₂, corresponding to 75,000 flights from London to New York, which is equivalent to 10 years of air traffic for the route.

Urban areas account for a 23% share of all CO₂ emissions from transport, which contributes about one quarter to the EU's total emissions of CO₂. Moreover many European towns and cities suffer from heavy traffic congestion.

Using transport demand and CO2 estimation results for the year 2030, the report "Quantifying the Effects of Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans" quantifies potential cuts by EU countries through a series of sustainability measures to achieve lower emissions of CO₂. It doesn't however take into account abatement costs.

Looking at possible CO₂ cuts from urban transport by country in 2030 identifies Cyprus and Luxembourg as the nations with most potential to reduce CO₂ - up to 10.3%. The two are followed by Sweden (up to 9.3%) and Estonia (up to 9.2%). In absolute figures, Germany would achieve the most extensive cut, corresponding to a contraction of up to 3.38 million tons of CO₂ (up to 8.9% of its 2030 emissions). The UK and Italy trail Germany with 3.09 and 2.8 million tons respectively.

Measures such as dedicated walking and cycling infrastructure, improvements through ICT, low speed zones, car sharing & carpooling schemes or multimodal connection platforms were assessed and measured to investigate the economic, social and environmental impacts and their capacity to avoid, shift and improve sustainable and unsustainable transport practices.


According to a Eurobarometar survey, half of all Europeans use a car every day (50%), which is more than those who cycle (12%) or use public transport (16%) combined. The same survey says that around four in ten Europeans encounter problems when travelling within cities (38%). The total cost of congestion in the EU is estimated at €80 billion annually.

There are considerable differences in the use of more sustainable urban mobility modes and in the perception of the problems associated with current patterns: While 57% of Finnish citizens cycle at least a few times a week, only 3% of the Maltese citizens do so. At the same time, 97% of Maltese citizens think that congestion is a serious problem in cities, against 27% of the Finnish respondents.

To turn past trends around and achieve meaningful reduction of greenhouse emissions, the Commission will set up in 2014 a European platform for sustainable urban mobility plans. This platform will help cities, planning experts and stakeholders to plan for easier and greener urban mobility.

In support of these objectives, the JRC reviewed previous studies that have focused on the impacts and effects of transport policy measures, and normalised all these data to create a common template and quantify current practices in different cities across Europe.