Transport is now Europe’s biggest climate problem - EEA data

Greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector have grown for the first time since 2007 while those of other sectors of the economy have decreased, data released today by the European Environment Agency (EEA) revealed. The EEA’s report on EU-wide trends in greenhouse gas emissions in 2014 plainly shows that transport has now become the single biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in Europe.

Greenhouse gas emissions from all transport modes increased by 0.6% to 1,153 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents (MT CO2eq). Emission from sectors other than transport decreased. Emissions of the power sector, until recently the biggest emitter of CO2, fell by 7.4% to 1,066 MT CO2eq due to the combined effects of closure of around 10GW worth of fossil fuel-powered plants and the installation of around 20 GW of new wind and solar generation capacity across the continent.

Jos Dings, executive director of Transport & Environment (T&E), said: “These numbers serve as a wake-up call to those who thought that Europe was turning the corner on its transport emissions. Transport is now without question Europe’s biggest climate problem.”

The findings are highly significant because the European Commission is planning to release a strategy to decarbonise transport in Europe on 20 July. On that date it will also present a proposal to implement the EU leaders’ commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions from sectors outside the ETS - the largest of which is transport - by 30% between 2005 and 2030 in the so-called ‘effort sharing decision’’.

“The European Commission has no choice but to help Member States and come with an ambitious ‘efficiency and electrification’ strategy for transport with new car and truck CO2 standards by 2025,” Jos Dings continued.

CO2 emissions from international aviation and shipping, which are not included in the total EU GHG inventory, increased by 1.6% and decreased by 0.2% respectively. When international transport is included, the share of transport in the EU’s total CO2 emissions now stands at an all-time high 30,8%, of which international aviation and shipping represent 7.3%.

Bill Hemmings, aviation and shipping director at T&E, commented: “These trends are a clear risk to achieving the EU’s 2030 emissions reduction targets and show clearly that effective measures to control aviation and shipping emissions are urgently needed at European level. For Europe simply to outsource climate policy on aviation and shipping to two UN agencies, ICAO and IMO, with poor track records would be a clear betrayal of the EU’s Paris commitments. International transport needs to contribute to EU's 2030 climate target as all the other sectors of the economy do.”

T&E stresses that the figures for transport are worse than what EEA figures show because biofuels used in transport are counted as zero-carbon and hence ‘disappear’ from the numbers, despite the fact that most biofuels used in Europe are worse for the climate than their fossil equivalents. This means transport emissions are in reality around 6% higher than the EEA numbers indicate (1).

Jos Dings added: “The Commission should also urgently close the loophole by which first-generation biofuels count as zero-emission when in fact most of them make climate change worse not better.”

Footnotes: 

(1) Recent analysis and market data indicate that biodiesel and bioethanol made from food crops typically emit 80% higher and 30% lower greenhouse gas emissions than fossil diesel and petrol, respectively. Since their market share in the EU’s overall 350 Mtoe transport energy use in 2014 was around 3% and 1% respectively, this represents a loophole of around 3*1.8%+0.7% = 6%.


Contact the press team

Nico Muzi
Communications Director
+32 (0)484 27 87 91 
nico.muzi@transportenvironment.org

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