EU must urgently rethink its transport model

Written by Karima Delli on 24 February 2017 in Opinion

Europe's transport sector constitutes a health emergency, warns Karima Delli.

Karima Delli | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual

While certain sectors, such as agriculture and industry, have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions, the transport sector's emissions have risen by 30 per cent since 1990. Urban transport alone accounts for a quarter of emissions, mainly due to road traffic. The EU must reverse this trend if it wants to reach its 2030 emissions reduction targets.

Mobility is not a goal in itself, but should be a right for all citizens. Soon, 80 per cent of Europeans will live in an urban area; mobility should therefore encourage mobility for all, including those with reduced mobility, at school, at work, for leisure, culture and health.

Yet urban mobility is often seen as a constraint, because most people rely on their car and traditional fuels. As a result, the transition to more sustainable modes of transport is very slow - 43 per cent of distance travelled around the world is done by car and represents three quarters of travel in Europe. 


This dependence on cars - and traffic, a direct consequence - costs European cities around €80bn and means that people who live in cities suffer mobility rather than choose it. What's more, 50 per cent of travel in cities does not exceed 5km.

This is a health emergency. Too many cars in Europe use diesel, which is a threat to our quality of life, our health and the environment. Each year, 400,000 people die because of fine particles emitted by diesel engine cars, which account for over 55 per cent of motor vehicles in Europe. 

The use of fossil fuels for transport is also a considerable weight on member states' energy bill. There is no time to waste - according to the UN, pollution will be the number one cause of death by 2050.

We must rethink urban mobility, both in terms of people and goods. It's crucial that we start considering mobility primarily in terms of sustainable development. 

This means we must strive for a balance between the social, environmental and economic impact of transport, as well as between satisfying current and future generations. 

It was in this context that the UN in 1992, in Rio, defined sustainable mobility as "transport policy that strives to sustainably reconcile accessibility, economic progress and environmental objectives."

The EU must set itself ambitious targets so that member states and regional and local authorities can, together, implement a new, durable sustainable transport model. 

It's disappointing to see that local officials in Paris, London and elsewhere are forced to take rushed, emergency decisions to deal with record pollution peaks and compensate for member states' scandalous passivity.

After COP21, during which governments all made strong commitments to protect our lives and the planet, we must prioritise clean transport: tramways, cable cars, bikes and carpool.

It's up to the member states to actively divert transport from road to waterway and rail, while giving enough importance to inter-modality.

Beyond ecology, this is common sense.


About the author

Karima Delli (Greens/EFA, FR) is Chair of Parliament's transport and tourism committee

Interested in this content?

Sign up to our free daily email bulletins.


Share this page



Related Partner Content

LPG can help fight the war on smog
29 January 2018

Pollutants such as particulate matter, nitrogen oxide and ozone kill hundreds of thousands each year. One way to reduce these deadly emissions is to switch to LPG, argues Eric Johnson.

Autogas is the ideal bridging fuel for sustainable EU road transport
8 November 2017

But policy incentives to take account of its environmental benefits are needed for the market to accelerate, argues Trevor Morgan.

No compromise on air quality
13 June 2016

EU and national policymakers need to place more emphasis on the use of alternative fuels, argues Cécile Nourigat.