In 2017, 27% of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions came from the transport sector. The highest contributor of that (71%) was road transport. In addition, road transport is the main cause of air pollution in cities. Worryingly, the trend from the transport sector is going in the wrong direction, with the European Environment Agency reporting that “Greenhouse gas emissions from the EU’s transport increased in 2018 and 2019 and have not followed the EU’s general decreasing emissions trend”.

How can we encourage a fair transition to a more sustainable mix of transport modes? We thought this would be a great question to pose to our readers during EU Mobility Week in the run-up to Car-Free Sunday, which many towns and cities across Europe will be implementing on Sunday 19 September.

Want to learn more about European road transport and its impact on climate change? Check out our infographic below (click for a bigger version):

We’re continuing our series on the European Climate Pact, an EU-wide initiative inviting people, communities and organisations to participate in climate action and build a greener Europe. We will invite scientists, campaigners, activists, European Climate Pact Ambassadors, mayors, politicians and others to take part in our debates and discuss how we can all make a difference.

In the video at the top of this post, we’ve taken a comment from a focus group we ran with Laura from Italy, who pointed out to us that not everyone has the same mobility needs:

I would say that it’s kind of unfair to have this pressure [to change our behaviour], because not everyone has the same needs. Like, if you live in the countryside it’s harder to give up a car than if you live in a big city. So, it’s not fair.

We also picked two comments from readers on our website, including from Francoise who think public transport should be free for everyone (as it is in Luxembourg); and from Xavier, who thinks all European cities should introduce congestion charges.

To get some reactions, we put this mix of comments and questions to Małgorzata Tracz, a Polish MP and Co-Leader of The Greens (the Polish green party), and George Marshall, Founding Director of Climate Outreach and author of the book Don’t Even Think About It: Why our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change. You can see how they responded in the video at the top of the post.

Do you want to get involved? Sign up to the European Climate Pact and pledge to take practical steps to help reduce carbon pollution on our planet.

What do YOU think? What would encourage you to drive less and use other modes of transport more, such as public transport or cycling? Should all European cities introduce congestion charges? Why not make public transport free for everyone? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: Photo by Blubel on Unsplash
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48 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar

    Well, living in a small rural town in a hilly place with zero public transport, I’m pretty satisfied with my annual average of around 9,000 km over the last 3 years. We have about 6 months of snow, so the car is indispensable. Moral of the story: it depends.

  2. avatar

    I’m ready to drive less or even sell my car the very same moment someone comes and offers me a better alternative.

  3. avatar

    I’d also like to point out that “the transport sector” is not equal to “you driving less”. Goods transport, for example, now predominantly on rubber tyres, could be moved to rail for a large part, were it not for the big investments necessary to make it happen. This would also mean rethinking just-in-time deliveries, which in turn would necessitate figuring out intermediate storage, particularly for perishable goods.

  4. avatar

    On the other side you sign trade agreements with the whole world to increase goods transportation…… Change your policy before bothering Europeans…

  5. avatar

    A job that is not 70 km away from my home.

  6. avatar

    Well, in flat countries or in flat areas maybe is easy to move around biking, but come to countries like Spain or Greece and try to move around with your bike… I currently drive less as I live in a small town where I can reach almost everything walking, and as I am working from home, but here in Spain, due to our geographical features and historical urban planning, I think the idea to implement a proper biking network is quite utopian in many parts of the country… So, in my case, I still need the car to move around.

    • avatar

      Nacho Ibh get a horse xD

    • avatar

      Nacho Ibh how about an e-bike? They are fantastic, uphill is a breeze

  7. avatar

    If the EU bureacrats start going to work on foot or on a bicycle instead of travelling on luxury cars they didn’t pay for, I would take their example. Personal example is the only way to convince people to do something. Personal example turned humanity from a primitive tribe into a whole civilisation.

    • avatar

      Крис Караджов Em Portugal, ministros não prescindem de carros de luxo e motoristas à disposição a qualquer hora…..!!!!

    • avatar

      Hi, I’ve been an EU bureaucrat for 15 years and in all this time I went to work by car maybe 5 times. I always use public transport, and recently a bike. There you go, you have your example, now you can take it as you said you would. Ps. I do own a car and I did pay for it myself.

  8. avatar

    Its nit our habits but policies and lack of conviction in implementing those policies which are harming

  9. avatar

    Fast, cheap, and easy to use buses and trains. If things were more nearby I’d walk more

  10. avatar

    I don’t own a car and rarely drive as I can bike around town. On the weekends though, I’m not taking the train for outings as realistically renting a car is much easier to travel with small child(ren).

    • avatar

      Craig Willy The car is also much faster (and undeniably cheaper…) than most “cross-country” Belgian trains. It would take me 2h30 and cost me 17€ (one person, one way!) to get from my place to the beach. Avoiding traffic, that same journey takes 1h30 and costs far less by car (especially with more people in it), making it a realistic day trip. Not so if you’re spending 5h in the train getting there and back… I say this as someone who has staunchly refused to have a car an does everything on foot or with public transport in my daily life. I also believe sustainability is about doing something in a way that you can keep up over the long run. And for me, Belgian trains are not it, at least not yet.

  11. avatar

    If someone gave me chauffeur riven Bentley and paid for all the fuel, parking fees, insurance, repairs, maintenance. I would stop driving today.

  12. avatar

    just walked to the shops and back..all exercised and exhausted..good job 3k

    • avatar

      Yvonne O’Neill with all the heavy shopping on your back presumably

    • avatar

      Agnieszka McAllister jezz..whats you’re problem!!…im here doing my small bit for the plannet…whats wrong with walking to the shops?..who has lots of money anyway(i havent even got a bank account)please..just an ordinary mum….you know the old saying…if you cant say anything good or constructive..dont say it at all…honestly , critizing someone for walking…you need to go to a doctor(spend your money there) maybe..just take a nice walk :D

    • avatar

      Yvonne O’Neill I am 60. Have arthritis. Shop weekly. Nearest shop is 3.4 km from my house. I cycle for top up is weather allows. And walk dogs. It’s the big companies that pollute most. Have I criticised you for walking? I don’t think so. I am just pointing out that it is not always an option.

    • avatar

      Yvonne O’Neill and by the way, I didn’t even owned a car when I lived in a city. Bought a first one at the age of 40.

    • avatar

      Morning Anieszka…look..we need and have to walk..its good for the body and the constitution..try bringing a rucksac ,i find it helpfull carrying the shopping home..also a wheling trollie is good too or even a small suitcase with wheels..very helpfull in carrying the messages..anyway enjoy the walk ..i am a 60 something too enjoy the weather while its still good :D

  13. avatar

    let’s look at more statistics: 40.3 % of the EU-27 population living in single adult households with dependent children was at risk of poverty or social exclusion in 2019 (eurostat). do you think these people can make conscious choices and buy electric cars? A study (see link below) found that the area of deforestation has risen dramatically across Europe within the last two decades. The area was 49% higher from 2015 to 2018 compared to 2011 – 2015. The loss of biomass increased even more with 69%. 22 out of 26 EU countries have increased their harvest rate and the ones with large old-growth forests, including Sweden, Finland, Romania and Poland, show some of the most dramatic rises. how is that for carbon capture of emissions? authorities should be more preoccupied with reforestation, greening cities and making public transport more efficient to start with. that will be way more productive in tackling co2.

    • avatar

      Andrea Caballé the work place is for work not sport or …

    • avatar

      Christian Chopin really? unheard-of.

  14. avatar

    A quick reminder that Copenhagen has a majority of daily trips to work or school by bike. The trick? You won’t believe it…. Bicycle tracks. On every street. Both ways. The trick is to make it safe to bike for kids. The difficulty is to dare to take the space away from vociferous car users.

  15. avatar

    Sharing the streets with less cars.

  16. avatar

    For me personally, driving is a necessity. I work far away from where I live, my working hours are 8-16 but this can change depending on the business needs. Public transport is simply not an option, and if I combine all my monthly salaries in a year I still couldn’t afford to buy an electric car. So if there wasn’t a need to drive I’d gladly reduce it to a minimum.

  17. avatar
    EU Reform Proactive

    Innovations & freedom of choice!

    • Being part of many who value living in a (still) reasonable, fair, free, well managed, orderly & tolerant society would not take kindly to have my personal choices & freedoms- which were fought and worked for by us & our forefathers- step by step curtailed by an army of over-eager political supranational bureaucrats. Why do they think they must outdo autocrats and regulate nearly everything to rule over everyone’s life, fate & country?

    • Any need to change should start on a consensual, national political/scientific level before reaching a supranational or an UN platform.

    • Direct democracy is a tool that can only flourish & start on a national basis- not a supranational EU one. It is restricted by EU law & made impossible to take root.

    • Since everyone has different limitations, needs, opportunities, assets, skills, tastes, wishes & dreams to reach for- which section of the EU society is Brussels targeting?

    • Why not promote cooperation, understanding and willingness to adapt to changes in our circumstances vs nature- combined with a selection of innovative offers from new affordable technical/scientific innovations?

    • People will automatically select an option best suited to their circumstances and this will address most of what some ill-advised politicians & their advisers intend to regulate and enforce.

    • This should not imply that scenario planning should/cannot be done by professional & suitable qualified folks.

  18. avatar

    If Europe lack a good public transportation system, how can people be convinced to drive less?

  19. avatar
    EU Reform Proactive

    Exchanging good wishes & sharing happiness does not require travelling or driving & saves “CO2”!

    Today is the 21st of September and a special day in many cultures. Traditional cultural or religious events are of no importance anymore in the EU political arena. Where has all the culture gone?

    No, it is not the same as the 20th of July celebrating the moon landing of Apollo 11.

    Ancient traditions are still remembered & celebrated by some. A Chinese friend surprised us today with a visit to wish us a “happy moon day”. How sweet is that?

    What has the 15th August on the Chinese lunar calendar and the 21st Sept in Europe/West in common? What is the “Moon Festival” all about? Sharing!

  20. avatar

    Efficient and cheap or free public transport, bike lanes, and large free parkings at the entrance of every large city. So basically, having an efficient alternative for driving…

    • avatar

      Lulu Stygian liar

  21. avatar

    Public transport that makes it under 2 hrs to get to the job ,like it is now

  22. avatar

    I walk more because I care about our only planet.

  23. avatar

    decent regular public transport in rural areas… making going to work in PT actually POSSIBLE.. as it is niw i would have to leave the night before and come back the next day and walk several miles

  24. avatar

    What would convince you to drive less?! It’s not me who needs convincing, it’s my boss and the boss of the boss.. They need convincing that they’re still needed even though we’re all teleworking! Because teleworking, where applicable, should be the norm! And it works!

  25. avatar
    JT HK

    Europe’s public mass transportation system is very poor. Without driving, people are handicapped cannot go anywhere. May be Europe has to learn from China, build up a highspeed train system connecting cities and mass transit within the city. Investing in infrastructure does not only protect the environment, it also creates jobs and facilitate technological renewal. It is essential to stimulate social and economic development as a long run.

  26. avatar

    For sure the costs in money, time and comfort of the alternatives to the car should be less than the car. Too often the price to just take the train is more than ‘filling the tank’, so why bother? This is particularly true if you travel with a small family, even long distance. Try compare the cost of driving Vienna – Florence vs buying a night cabin. In other words, the true climate costs of using the car should be factored in, taxed, to make alternatives cheaper, faster, and better.

  27. avatar

    I have an electrical car, I like to talk also. But people should also be encourage to work from home where and when that’s possible! Less car accidents due to commute at traffic rash hours exactly when people are very tired and so many other reasons…

  28. avatar

    Ive been riding a bike all my life.

  29. avatar

    Soon with 2,5 a liter petrol and 1,5 tax wi bay you love Europe

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