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European Environment Agency launches transport pollution report

More effort needed to meet EU targets on harmful transport pollution, according to report.

European transport pollution is harmful to health and more effort is needed to meet EU targets, according to a report launched by the European Environment Agency yesterday (27 November 2012).

The EEA is an agency of the European Union and provides independent information on the environment. The transport warnings come in its annual Transport and Environment Reporting Mechanism (TERM) report presented at a meeting of the European Parliament’s transport committee.

Jacqueline McGlade, EEA Executive Director, said meeting EU targets on transport pollution was important but challenging

The report looks at the environmental impact of transport across Europe and at progress in meeting  EU targets and finds progress on reducing the impact from transport as “tentative”.

However, the report states that although transport in Europe is responsible for creating damaging levels of air pollutants and a quarter of EU greenhouse gas emissions, an increased focus on meeting EU targets could help to address many of these issues.

Improved air pollution levels in Europe in recent years are partly attributed to the recession, according to the report, with businesses spending less on transportation. However, as transport levels would increase with an improving economic climate, the report calls for greater action to meet EU targets on air quality.

Professor Jacqueline McGlade, EEA executive director, said: “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. 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.”

Declining cost

Although cars are becoming more fuel-efficient, the report notes, the declining cost in real-terms of owning a vehicle versus the increasing cost of train and water transport over the last two decades means people are often making choices which can adversely affect air quality.

Freight transport of goods is highlighted as a major contributor of nitrogen dioxide, while increased shipping over the last 20 years has also impacted on air quality.

The TERM study also looked at monitoring results in Europe. It reported that high levels of nitrogen dioxide above legal limits were found in 44% of roadside air monitoring stations in 2010, with particulate matter levels exceeding limits at 33% at these stations. These pollutants are stated by the report to be harmful to the cardiovascular system, lungs, liver, spleen and blood.

Particulate matter

This latest report follows EEA’s Air Quality in Europe report in September 2012, which examined European citizens’ exposure to air pollutants and found that many parts of Europe have persistent problems with outdoor concentrations of particulate matter.

Particulate matter is described by the EEA as the most serious air pollution health risk in the EU, and the September report estimated that in 21% of the urban population of Europe in 2010 were exposed to particulate matter concentrations above EU limits.

The TERM report is available to read on the European Environmental Agency website, or by clicking here.

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