Green transport losing share to polluters: EU study

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Europe’s greenest modes of transport are falling behind the biggest polluters, which is contributing to a steep rise in climate-warming emissions, the European Environment Agency said on Tuesday.

Road and air freight, which both have a large carbon footprint, grew slightly faster than the economy, at around 43 percent and 35 percent respectively between 1997 and 2007, the European Union agency added in its annual review of transport’s environmental impact.

The market share of the cleanest freight modes -- rail and inland waterways -- declined over the same period, it said.

The problem has been exacerbated by the fact that eastern European countries, which joined the EU in the 1990s, have traditionally had poor rail links to western Europe.

European passenger airlines are increasing their traffic by about 48 percent each decade. While passenger demand for rail remained steady in western Europe in the 10 years to 2007, it declined heavily in eastern Europe.

“It’s clear from this analysis that transport is still heading in a totally unsustainable direction,” said Jos Dings, director of T&E, which campaigns for green transport.

“At the same time, governments no longer have the cash to invest in expensive infrastructure,” he added. “The best way out of these twin crises is to invest in pricing schemes that bring in revenues and improve efficiency, and, at the same time, to cut all subsidies to highly polluting modes such as aviation.”

The report comes a day before the European Union’s executive launches a green-transport strategy that is expected to put heavy emphasis on electric vehicles. Car journeys remained the dominant mode of transport in the EU’s 27 member countries, accounting for 72 percent of all kilometers travelled, the EEA said.

European emissions from internal transport grew by nearly a third between 1990 and 2007 and now account for around 19.3 percent of overall emissions.

Reporting by Pete Harrison; Editing by Amanda Cooper