Increased mobility of people and goods also has downside

The growth of technology in the transport industry may have brought people and goods closer together but it has also placed a corresponding burden on the environment. Transport is to blame for increased emissions of carbon dioxide and consequently for the inability of many European Union states to achieve the goals set in the Kyoto Protocol. The EU recently surveyed conditions in its 25 member states and in three of the candidate members – Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey – and is now faced with the dilemma of how to reconcile the increasing mobility of people and goods with a reduction in the environmental effects of those movements. In recent decades, journeys, both domestic and cross-border, have increased drastically. Acquiring a car or going on a trip are for most Europeans an indication of a better standard of living. The problem is that easy access to travel has created habits that would be hard to change. People’s places of work are far from their homes, children are taken to school by car and most people are in the habit of traveling long distances to go shopping or even just for a drive. People’s movements outside their homes have increased by 30 percent over the past decade, with the exception of Germany. Meanwhile more and more products are sent hundreds of kilometers from where they are made to supply markets in large cities. The movement of goods has increased by 34 percent in the past decade. As a result, carbon dioxide emissions, the main cause of the greenhouse effect, have increased considerably; transport is believed to be responsible for 21 percent of greenhouses gases, not only from the combustion of gasoline but from emissions produced during fuel production. Although a third of EU member states have managed to reduce these emissions through improved technology, greenhouse gases produced as a result of transport are expected to rise by 10.3 percent between 2005 and 2015. And that does not include emissions from sea and air transport, which play a major role in the overall production of these gases. Forms of road transport, particularly during traffic jams, pollute the lower levels of the atmosphere and are believed to be responsible for the premature deaths of 370,000 people a year in the EU, mainly from particles emitted from vehicles. Technology is not the only factor – it is also the way road transport is used that causes problems. Although more and more environmentally friendly technology continues to be produced, its benefits are canceled out by the increase in the amount of road transport, although this is being modified by rising fuel prices. The survey recommends greater deployment of public transport. The public transport system in the town of Curiba in Brazil, with 1.5 million inhabitants, is used by 70 percent of its people, even though car ownership corresponds to that in most European cities. Yet it took 30 years of planning and getting the public accustomed to using the system.