Transport set for greater EC attention as emissions again hold back EU action

Hints that transport will be targeted by the new Commission in its next stage of reducing greenhouse gases have been dropped by three leading officials.

Sketch of some documents (default image for news

Their comments come as the transport sector once again held back a fall in overall EU emissions.

Last month the Commission president José Manuel Barroso met with the British climate economist Nicholas Stern and the chairman of the UN climate panel Rajendra Pachauri, and said afterwards that eliminating greenhouse gases from power stations, cars, lorries and aircraft must feature in the priority list when 27 new commissioners are appointed later this year. 'I want to underline specifically the question of transport,' Barroso said.

'We need to come up with concrete policies to decarbonise our electricity supply and transport fuels, and to transform the grid,' Barroso added after his meeting with Stern and Pachauri. 'It's not too early to be thinking about this.'

'QUANTUM JUMP'

Two weeks later the environment commissioner Stavros Dimas said the new Commission could propose a major climate and transport policy package. Dimas was speaking at the announcement of European Environment Agency (EEA) figures which show EU greenhouse gas emissions fell by 1.2% in 2007, despite an alarming rise in emissions from transport.

The idea of a major initiative on transport was further reinforced by the second-highest Commission official in the environment directorate, Jos Delbeke. In an interview with Reuters news agency, he said Europe needed 'a climate and transport package ... to make a quantum jump'.

'We've been very successful in reducing emissions from the power and manufacturing sectors by around 15-20% since 1990,' he said, 'but we've been neutralising that with an increase in emissions from transport. We have to be much more ambitious on the nuisance of transport services.'

Delbeke confirmed that legislation to reduce emissions from vans was on its way, and Dimas said proposals could be published by the current Commission.
The EEA says total EU greenhouse gas emissions would have fallen by 14% since 1990 if transport had followed the same decreasing trend as other sectors, whereas its current figure is 7.9% down.