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EU Says Traffic Emissions Still Harmful

January 4, 2013

Despite improvements in recent years, a report by the European Environment Agency (EEA) suggests reductions in greenhouse gas emissions could be partly attributable to the recession and reduced activity.

The EEA’s report under the Transport and Environmental Report Mechanism (TEAM) said European standards for vehicles have not succeeded in reducing real nitrous oxide (NO2) emissions to the levels set out by the legislation. TEAM reported, “Freight was one of the main causes of the high levels of NO2. Increased shipping over the last two decades has also meant that emissions of acid rain-causing sulphur oxides have only decreased 14 percent since 1990, despite major efficiency improvements.”

“One of the big challenges of the 21st Century will be to mitigate the negative effects of transport – greenhouse gases, air pollution and noise – while ensuring positive aspects of mobility,” said Jacqueline McGlade, EEA executive director. “Europe can take the lead by intensifying its work in the area of technological innovation in electric mobility. Such change could transform inner city living.”

According to the report, harmful nitrogen dioxide levels above legal limits were registered at 44 percent of roadside air monitoring stations in 2010. Particulate matter (PM10) levels exceeded limits at 33 percent of these sites.

The report noted freight transportation demand is particularly sensitive to economic fluctuations. After a sharp drop between 2008 and 2009, it grew 5.4 percent in 2010.

 The transportation sector must reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 68 percent between 2010 and mid-century to meet the EU target, the report continued. Greenhouse gas emissions from transportation fell by 0.4 percent between 2009 and 2010, and early estimates show a similar decrease between 2010 and 2011.