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Transport and CO2

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Transport and CO2


To protect the environment by reducing emissions of CO2 from transport in the framework of the undertakings made at the Kyoto Conference.


Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on transport and CO2: developing a Community approach.


The Kyoto agreement confirmed the need to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases in order to protect the environment and curb climate change. The target fixed at Kyoto was an 8% reduction of emissions in all sectors of the economy compared to 1990 levels by 2008-2012.

In the European Union, the transport emissions proportion of total CO2 emissions rose from 19% in 1985 to 26% in 1995. EU transport emissions of CO2 currently account for about 3.5% of global CO2 emissions. Any action taken to reduce CO2 emissions will have to involve curbing transport emissions.

In this Communication, the Commission maintains that the transport policy measures proposed or already adopted at Community or local level should make it possible to cut the rate of increase of CO2 emissions by half. The Commission is proposing a common and coordinated policy approach in the run-up to the next conference at Buenos Aires in 1998. The Commission is therefore defining a package of measures which will contribute to the reduction of CO2 transport emissions and proposing a process under which actions can be developed at different levels.

Road freight:

Logistics have to be improved in various ways order to increase the efficiency of road freight operations:

  • increasing the rate of vehicle utilisation,
  • reducing empty running,
  • improving driver training (could lead to a 20% reduction in fuel consumption),
  • developing the use of route-management software to reduce the distances covered.

Passenger cars:

Passenger cars account for about half the transport-related CO2 emissions in the European Union. In order to reduce the emission of pollutants, car manufacturers must produce fuel-efficient cars. This approach should permit a reduction of almost 30% in CO2 emissions for new cars coming onto the market.

The European Union has already adopted a strategy to reduce CO2 emissions from passenger cars by improving their fuel economy, with a view to achieving an average CO2 emission value of 120g/km by 2005 (or 2010 at the latest) for all new cars [COM(95) 689 final; Council Conclusions of 25.6.1996]. This strategy consists of an environmental agreement with the automotive industry linked to fiscal measures. Other measures are required, however, such as vehicle taxation or the establishment of a consumer information scheme. Efforts should also be made to develop alternative, less polluting fuels.

Rail freight:

The promotion of rail transport is a priority in the Commission strategy to reduce polluting emissions. In this connection, the 1996 White Paper "A strategy for Revitalising the Community Railways" sets out the need for the railways to respond better to customers' needs and to improve their performance. This will require greater liberalisation of rail transport. The Commission will present a series of measures to improve the efficiency of the internal rail market in the course of 1998.

The proposals are:

  • to encourage technical harmonisation and interoperability in conventional rail;
  • to improve the use, management and pricing of rail infrastructure;
  • to clarify the relationship between the State and the railways.

Public passenger transport:

It is important to promote the use of public transport as a means of reducing polluting emissions in urban areas. Various measures could be taken to increase its use:

  • encouraging companies to purchase season tickets for public transport for their staff;
  • improving the quality of public transport through national, regional or local subsidies;
  • encouraging consumers to use public transport by means of effective information campaigns.


Maritime transport is one of the least polluting modes of transport. Its use, including for short distances, should therefore be developed as a priority.

The Kyoto Protocol entrusts to the International Maritime Organisation the task of devising rules to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. While the Commission supports the efforts to be made by the IMO, it believes the measures adopted by that organisation should not be limited to the shipping industries of the industrialised nations.

Air transport

Air transport accounts for 12% of the transport emissions of CO2 in the atmosphere. In 1998, the Commission will present a Communication on air transport and the environment. There are various options for significantly reducing the emissions of CO2:

  • drawing up stricter international emission standards;
  • promoting the efficiency of the air transport system (targeted taxation, improved pricing, limited flight distances);
  • promoting alternative modes of transport wherever possible.

The Commission is examining the system of taxes applied to air transport, in particular VAT (not applicable to intra-Community air tariffs), and the fiscal treatment of kerosene.

Creating an integrated EU transportation system

Emissions of pollutants can be reduced by using efficient and cost-effective modes of transport. Intermodality must be promoted so as to offer door to door transport services based on a range of interchangeable modes of transport. One of the Commission's objectives is to create an integrated, inter-modal transport system.

According to one estimate, the creation of an integrated logistics management system which makes full use of telematics would allow a reduction in CO2 emissions of around 4%.

The Commission has proposed the restructuring of the Community framework for the taxation of energy products. It believes that increases in the Community's minimum fuel taxes constitute an important element in the strategy for reducing CO2 emissions from transport.

Fair and efficient pricing:

The Commission would like the prices of different modes of transport to reflect their costs to society (pollution, damage caused to transport infrastructure, congestion, transport-related accidents, noise pollution).

Efficient infrastructure:

Transport problems have often been associated with insufficient infrastructure capacity. Consequently, building new transport infrastructure is a priority in the European Union (trans-European networks) The Commission would welcome an improvement in the efficiency and reliability of existing structures, for example through the development of reliable navigation and position-fixing services.

In addition to action concerning the different modes of transport, the Commission has proposed complementary measures:

  • reinforcement of the role of national, regional and local authorities in traffic management (speed control, information campaigns, promotion of non-polluting modes of transport such as the bicycle, restricting traffic in urban areas);
  • introduction of a land-use plan taking environmental considerations into account;
  • development of new, less polluting propulsion technologies (hybrid cars, fuel cells).

Research should focus on reducing the cost of manufacturing these technologies. The Altener and Thermie programmes should permit the Commission to develop:

  • the demonstration of and experimentation into new transport technologies;
  • the promotion of new fuels such as biofuels;
  • improved coordination of all stakeholders through the adoption of action plans;
  • the implementation of a system to follow-up and monitor the evolution of transport-related CO2 emissions with the cooperation of the European Environment Agency.

More generally, research under the Fifth programme of research, development and demonstration (1998-2002) should focus on the relation between transport and production/consumption so as to suggest how economic growth might be dissociated from increasing traffic levels.

As a general policy, the Commission believes that action plans at Community, Member State or local government level are the best means of supporting an efficient policy to reduce CO2 emissions from transport.

4) deadline for implementation of the legislation in the member states

Not applicable

5) date of entry into force (if different from the above)

Not applicable

6) references

COM(98) 204 finalNot yet published in the Official Journal

7) follow-up work

8) community implementing measures