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Transportation emissions in the European Union - Statistics & Facts

Transportation is a major source of pollution in the EU, producing large volumes of greenhouse gas emissions as well as harmful air pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide. While there have been significant emissions reductions from other sectors in recent decades – such as energy supply – transportation emissions have increased, making it the EU’s second most polluting sector. In 2019, transportation produced the equivalent of 1.1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. This was the sixth consecutive year that transportation-related emissions had increased, and was a 33 percent increase compared to 1990 levels. Despite the trend in rising emissions, it is projected that the travel restrictions caused by the outbreak of COVID-19 had a significant impact on transportation emissions in 2020, with emissions from this sector falling as much as 19 percent in certain EU countries.

Most polluting modes of transportation

Road vehicles are by far the most polluting mode of transportation, accounting for more than 70 percent of EU transportation greenhouse gas emissions. In 2018, road transportation emissions totaled 786 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent – a 27 percent increase from 1990. Of this total, passenger cars represented 60 percent, with emissions climbing from 381.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 1990 to 469 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. During this same period, the number of passenger cars per 1,000 inhabitants in the EU has increased from 342 to 524. Heavy-duty trucks and buses are the second-largest source of road vehicle emissions, followed by light-duty trucks.

Despite improvements to fuel efficiency in recent years, the increase in air traffic has caused aviation emissions to grow at a rapid pace, increasing by 30 percent between 2013 and 2019. Civil aviation in the EU now produces roughly 13 percent of transportation emissions, and 3.5 percent of total EU carbon dioxide emissions and is one of the fastest-growing sources of emissions.

EU targets transportation emissions reductions

Emission reductions from transportation – especially road transportation - are key for the EU to achieve its target of net zero emissions by 2050. Of all modes of transportation, it is expected that road vehicle emissions will decrease the fastest as alternative fuels and electric vehicles are adopted on a wider scale. Currently, the average new passenger car sold in Europe emits 122 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer, with a 2020/2021 target of grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer.
Rail transportation is also seen as key to decarbonizing the transportation sector. As of one of the least polluting modes of transport, there have been calls for a vastly improved rail network across Europe. This would include more overnight train services, as well as high-speed trains connecting member states as an alternative to air travel. In a bid to mitigate aviation emissions, the French government imposed a ban in April 2021 on certain short-haul domestic flights wherever rail alternatives that can provide the same journey in two and a half hours are available.

Key figures

The most important key figures provide you with a compact summary of the topic of "Transportation emissions in the EU" and take you straight to the corresponding statistics.

GHG emissions

Air pollutants

Road transportation

Non-road transportation

Interesting statistics

In the following 6 chapters, you will quickly find the {amountStatistics} most important statistics relating to "Transportation emissions in the EU".

Transportation emissions in the European Union

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Transportation emissions in the European Union - Statistics & Facts

Transportation is a major source of pollution in the EU, producing large volumes of greenhouse gas emissions as well as harmful air pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide. While there have been significant emissions reductions from other sectors in recent decades – such as energy supply – transportation emissions have increased, making it the EU’s second most polluting sector. In 2019, transportation produced the equivalent of 1.1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. This was the sixth consecutive year that transportation-related emissions had increased, and was a 33 percent increase compared to 1990 levels. Despite the trend in rising emissions, it is projected that the travel restrictions caused by the outbreak of COVID-19 had a significant impact on transportation emissions in 2020, with emissions from this sector falling as much as 19 percent in certain EU countries.

Most polluting modes of transportation

Road vehicles are by far the most polluting mode of transportation, accounting for more than 70 percent of EU transportation greenhouse gas emissions. In 2018, road transportation emissions totaled 786 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent – a 27 percent increase from 1990. Of this total, passenger cars represented 60 percent, with emissions climbing from 381.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 1990 to 469 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. During this same period, the number of passenger cars per 1,000 inhabitants in the EU has increased from 342 to 524. Heavy-duty trucks and buses are the second-largest source of road vehicle emissions, followed by light-duty trucks.

Despite improvements to fuel efficiency in recent years, the increase in air traffic has caused aviation emissions to grow at a rapid pace, increasing by 30 percent between 2013 and 2019. Civil aviation in the EU now produces roughly 13 percent of transportation emissions, and 3.5 percent of total EU carbon dioxide emissions and is one of the fastest-growing sources of emissions.

EU targets transportation emissions reductions

Emission reductions from transportation – especially road transportation - are key for the EU to achieve its target of net zero emissions by 2050. Of all modes of transportation, it is expected that road vehicle emissions will decrease the fastest as alternative fuels and electric vehicles are adopted on a wider scale. Currently, the average new passenger car sold in Europe emits 122 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer, with a 2020/2021 target of grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer.
Rail transportation is also seen as key to decarbonizing the transportation sector. As of one of the least polluting modes of transport, there have been calls for a vastly improved rail network across Europe. This would include more overnight train services, as well as high-speed trains connecting member states as an alternative to air travel. In a bid to mitigate aviation emissions, the French government imposed a ban in April 2021 on certain short-haul domestic flights wherever rail alternatives that can provide the same journey in two and a half hours are available.

Interesting statistics

In the following 6 chapters, you will quickly find the {amountStatistics} most important statistics relating to "Transportation emissions in the EU".

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