European Union

Making policy for climate’s sake

Europe is the land where climate policy has been explicit. Seeking to lead the world in terms of climate mitigation policy, it has integrated policy across many, varied states, and its nations have developed and implemented ambitious policies of their own. The challenge in Europe is to continue providing leadership in the face of an economic crisis, while accounting for national differences in outlook and policy.


These graphs show the changes in emissions, emissions drivers, and policy in the Transportation sector in the EU


Emissions Transportation emissions and passenger miles and freight transport index

Passenger miles and freight transport rose rapidly before declining as a result of the recession. Emissions grew slowly but steadily until they peaked in the mid-2000s.


    Emissions Drivers Emissions intensity indices—EU27 + Norway, Switzerland, and Turkey

    Emissions intensity declined steadily. Passenger transport efficiency improved more than freight transport efficiency. However, within road transport, freight improved three times as much as passenger travel (18% versus 6%) between 1995 and 2010 (not shown).


      Policy Emissions intensity indices

      Starting from a comparatively high point, real fuel taxes were almost flat since the mid-1990s and steadily declined as a proportion of the final fuel price. Rising oil prices rather than government intervention therefore were the main increase to price signals for more efficient road transport. Shown for EU27, Norway, Switzerland, and Turkey.

        • High fuel taxes, particularly on petrol, maintained pressure to improve fuel efficiency throughout the 1990s, and began a trend towards increasing the use of diesel in passenger cars. Overall transport demand grew and greenhouse gas emissions from the sector increased over the 1990s. The 1990s laid policy groundwork for lowering vehicle greenhouse gas emissions rates in the next decade.

          • Policy Barriers

            • 1995 EU strategy to reduce passenger vehicle CO₂ emissions established 3-pillared approach:
              Voluntary commitments
              Improved consumer information
              Fiscal measures (EC 2007)
            • EC signed commitments in 1995 with major automobile manufacturer associations to target 140 gCO₂ per km for new vehicle fleets by 2009 (ICCT 2013)
            • High tax premiums on fuel across EU Member States
              Fuel taxes remained flat after the mid-1990s
              Diesel taxes were lower than petrol taxes
          • Underlying changes

            • High fuel prices
            • Shift towards diesel passenger vehicles from petrol vehicles
            • Increase in demand across all modes of freight and passenger transport from 1995 onward (EEA 2013a, 2013b)
              Passenger air transport demand rose by 46%
              High-speed rail passenger kilometers traveled steadily grew across decade (EC 2010)
              Freight road, rail, and maritime transport all rose by over 10%
            • Modal share of freight and passenger transport
              Shares of freight transport modes remained stable
              4% modal shift from passenger road to passenger air transport
            • Increased fuel e!ciency across passenger (1%) and freight ground (6%) transport (EEA 2011)
            • Increased private vehicle ownership (EEA 2011)
        • Transport demand and vehicle efficiency continued to grow across the decade; including a significant shift to diesel in passenger cars. In the late 2000s, all forms of transport, and particularly air travel, fell with the high oil prices and the economic crisis of the late 2000s. The EU mandated increasing biofuel use for transport.

          • Policy Barriers

            • Notable increase in mandatory measures to reduce on-road emissions
              States commenced labeling fuel efficiency and CO₂ emissions on new passenger vehicles (1999/94/EC)
            • Mandated that biofuels make up 2.5% and 5.75% of transport fuel use by 2005 and 2010, respectively (2003/30/EC)
            • Minimum taxation levels of energy products and electricity in EU (2003/96/EC)
            • Railway reform (2001/14/EC, 2004/49/EC and amendments) to improve infrastructure efficiency, but measures were not fully implemented by States
            • Marco Polo Programme provided financial assistance to shift 12 billion tonne-km of freight off roads to improve freight efficiency. (Regulation (EC) No 1382/2003)
            • Amended Fuel Quality Directive set greenhouse gas standards for road transport energy for next decade (Directive 2009/30/EC)
          • Underlying changes

            • Increased oil prices
            • Continued growth in passenger and transport demand. High speed particularly grew
            • Diesel passenger vehicle share surpassed petrol vehicle share
            • Modal share of freight and passenger transport
              Shares of freight transport modes remained stable
              Continued decrease in passenger road modal share and increased passenger air transport share
              High-speed rail passenger kilometers continued marked growth across decade (EC 2010)
            • With economic downturn, air passenger travel stagnated in 2008, fell in 2009, and rebounded in 2010 (Eurostat 2012)
            • Continued increase in private vehicle ownership (EEA 2011)
            • Infrastructure investment dominated by road transport while investment share in rail, maritime, and inland waterway infrastructure fell from 2000-2006 (Eurostat 2009)
            • Increased fuel efficiency across passenger (6%) and freight ground (12%) transport (EEA 2011)