Ten years’ work towards sustainable and healthy transport in Europe: key achievements and the way forward

Date

21 Jan 2009

Sections

Climate & Environment
Health & Consumers

Fact Sheet
Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Geneva, 22 January 2009

In recent decades, the rapid growth of road transport in the European Region,  while supporting economic development and integration, has harmed health and the environment through congestion, road traffic crashes, air and noise pollution, and contributing to sedentary lifestyles and emissions of greenhouse gases. The health and environmental consequences of transport affect most of the population, not just transport users.

Growing concern and commitment to strengthening the integration of environment and health issues into transport policies in European countries led to the establishment of a series of policy frameworks to help them pursue more sustainable and healthy transport. In 2002, these converged in the Transport, Health and Environment Pan-European Programme (THE PEP), jointly managed by the WHO Regional Office for Europe and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

Over the past 10 years, many countries have developed strategies and programmes to improve environmental and health protection in the transport sector, especially in the western part of the Region. Policy reform has been slower in some low- and middle-income countries, which gave the need for economic revival priority over environmental objectives. In general, trends show that innovative solutions are required to address the challenges of creating sustainable, accessible and liveable cities.

Transport growth

Extensive building of new roads and motorways has taken place across the European Region. In the 25 Member States belonging to the European Union as of 1 May 2004 (EU-25), the overall length of motorways grew by 38% on average between 1990 and 2003, and the volume of passenger and freight transport has doubled over the last 25 years. In eastern Europe, the Caucasus and central Asia and in south-eastern Europe, the length of newly constructed motorways grew even more remarkably: by 144% and 157%, respectively.

•    Air pollution is estimated to have claimed an average of 8.6 months from the life of every person in the EU-25, and emissions from road traffic account for a significant share of this burden.
•    About 120 million people in the 15 EU Member States before May 2004 (EU-15) – over 30% of the total population – are exposed to levels of road-traffic noise exceeding the standard: 55 Ldn dB.
•    Physical inactivity is associated with 600 000 annual deaths in the European Region, where about 20–30% of adults are estimated to be obese.
•    Greenhouse-gas emissions from the transport sector increased from 16.6% of the total in 1990 to 23.8% in 2006 in the 27 current EU Member States, and continue to grow. Road transport accounts for more than 70% of these emissions.
•    Transport is 95% dependent on oil and accounts for 60% of world oil consumption; this dependence increasingly exposes the sector to shocks related to oil supply and price instability.
•    Today, the road network occupies 93% of the total area of land used in the EU for transport; rail occupies only 4% and uses about 3.5 times less space per passenger-kilometre than cars.
Effects on the environment and health: a decade of facts and figures
•    Traffic accidents kill around 100 000 people per year in the European Region, and cause some 2.4 million injuries. People under 25 years of age suffer a third of these deaths.
•    Air pollution is estimated to have claimed an average of 8.6 months from the life of every person in the EU-25, and emissions from road traffic account for a significant share of this burden.
•    About 120 million people in the 15 EU Member States before May 2004 (EU-15) – over 30% of the total population – are exposed to levels of road-traffic noise exceeding the standard: 55 Ldn dB.
•    Physical inactivity is associated with 600 000 annual deaths in the European Region, where about 20–30% of adults are estimated to be obese.
•    Greenhouse-gas emissions from the transport sector increased from 16.6% of the total in 1990 to 23.8% in 2006 in the 27 current EU Member States, and continue to grow. Road transport accounts for more than 70% of these emissions.
•    Transport is 95% dependent on oil and accounts for 60% of world oil consumption; this dependence increasingly exposes the sector to shocks related to oil supply and price instability.
•    Today, the road network occupies 93% of the total area of land used in the EU for transport; rail occupies only 4% and uses about 3.5 times less space per passenger-kilometre than cars.

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