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GEO Year Book 2003  
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Unsustainable transport patterns

The transport sector has clear links to climate change. In Western Europe, it has become the second largest consumer of energy (30 per cent of total energy use) and an important source of GHG emissions. In Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia (the transport sector is a relatively less important energy consumer but still accounts for around 22 and 17 per cent respectively of total energy use (EEA 2002).

Rail is one of the main modes of transport in Europe, particularly in Eastern Europe where it predominates.

Source: Still Pictures

In Eastern Europe, rail transport remains strong with no signs of decline (EEA 2002). Central Europe, where transport patterns are currently more favourable to the environment than in Western Europe, risks ending up with the present unsustainable, mainly road-dominated, transport patterns of Western Europe unless preventive action is taken. For instance, the number of cars per 1 000 inhabitants in Central Europe is currently half of that in Western Europe, but the rising trend in 1990–99 of a 61 per cent increase in car-ownership in Central Europe continues.

Economic growth and related changing lifestyle patterns create increasingly strong pressures on the transport sector all over Europe. Western European experiences, including voluntary agreements and fuel taxes, show that environmental regulation on vehicles and fuels has helped to reduce certain impacts, such as air pollution. But these gains in eco-efficiency have not been sufficient to mitigate the impact of the rapid growth of transport and infrastructure on GHG emissions, noise and habitat fragmentation. Better-integrated transport and environmental strategies are needed to restrain traffic growth and promote the use of more environmentally friendly modes – two of the key objectives of the EU Sustainable Development Strategy.

Box 1 lists some findings of a recent study on transport patterns and policy in Central Europe in relation to EU enlargement (EEA 2002).
An overall assessment of the transport sector, and of the economic, social and environmental impacts and benefits of the trans-European transport network and its eastern extension has not yet been made.


Box 1: Transport and environment integration: trends in Central Europe

1. Pricing system to internalize external costs:

  • few internalization instruments (eg a CO 2 tax on motor fuels) are in force in the accession; and countries
  • trends in fuel prices are not encouraging the use of more fuel-efficient transport modes.

2. Introduction of cleaner technologies:

  • the accession countries vehicle fleet is on average four to five years older than the EU fleet; and
  • the number of end-of-life vehicles and used tyres are expected to grow significantly.

3. Use of environmental management and monitoring tools:

  • integrated transport and environment strategies are lacking in accession countries; and
  • accession countries are not monitoring the environmental integration in their transport policies.
Source: EEA 2002

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