Belgium, (Brussels Morning) Total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from passenger cars and heavy goods vehicles have increased in Europe, despite better engine efficiency and the use of biofuels. The warning came from the European Environment Agency (EEA), which has urged the EU to shift road transport’s gears if higher levels of sustainability are to be achieved.
According to EEA data, from 2000 to 2019, CO2 emissions from passenger cars in the 27 EU countries increased by 5.8 %, and emissions from heavy goods vehicles increased by 5.5 %.
The main reason for the total increase in both car and truck emissions, EEA’s study shows, was growing transport volumes, which have only partially been offset by better fuel efficiency and the use of biofuels.
Moreover, in contrast to other sectors, the transport sector’s GHG emissions have increased in the past three decades by 33.5% between 1990 and 2019.
In 2019, the transport was responsible for about a quarter of the EU’s GHG emissions. Road transport accounted for 72% of EU transport emissions.
Adding to the challenge of growing transport volumes, Europe is still grounded to polluting transport modes. During the past two decades, cars have maintained and slightly increased their dominant share in land-based passenger mobility while trucks have done the same in freight transport.
Shifting to greener transport modes is a way to improve vehicle CO2 efficiency and the EU is working on policies to prioritise this initiative by, for instance, increasing the share of electric vehicles. These are expected to play an important role in decarbonising passenger and freight transport — especially when coupled with the continued decarbonisation of electricity and fuel production.
But not all EU countries are on the same level when it comes to acquiring electric cars. Sales of electric vehicles — battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles — have surged since 2017, tripling in 2020 when new targets started to apply. Nonetheless, up until now, the highest sales volumes had been recorded in countries with a relatively high gross domestic product per capita.
The EEA assessment also finds that decarbonising Europe’s mobility system requires methods beyond efficiency gains in road transport. This includes higher occupancy rates, for example through ride-sharing, and fuller cargo loads, as well as, curbing demand and shifting to greener transport modes: walking, cycling, buses, trains, and inland navigation.
EU climate targets
To deliver towards the environmental goals, the EU goal is trying to reduce GHG emissions from transport by 90% by 2050, compared with 1990 levels.
With existing policy measures, transport emissions are projected to decrease by only 22% in 2050 compared with 1990. This is a long way from the 90% reduction in transport sought by the Green Deal by 2050.