Transport ministers embrace integration

Strategy to reverse emissions lays emphasis on road pricing, land use planning, public transport

An environmental integration strategy agreed by yesterday's Transport Council meeting pledges to give environmental issues "equal weight" with economic and social factors in future EU transport policy making. The strategy is the first of three sectoral integration papers due to be submitted to EU heads of government in Helsinki in December. EU energy and agriculture ministers are expected to follow suit shortly.

The transport integration paper identifies growth in carbon dioxide emissions and expected growth in transport as areas where the need for further action are most urgent. It accepts that an indefinite continuation of current trends is unsustainable and states that projected growth in transport greenhouse gas emissions "must be reversed if the [EU] is to meet its commitments under the Kyoto protocol".

As requested by EU heads of government last December, the paper goes some way towards giving information on indicators and a timetable for follow-up. Transport ministers will "flesh out" operational parts of the strategy between 2000 and 2004 with a first review in June 2001, it says, while actions to restrain greenhouse gas emissions should be able to demonstrate progress towards compliance with the Kyoto protocol by 2005. Turning to indicators, the paper notes that regular reporting is due to start this year with a first document due from the European Environment Agency.

Ministers call on EU member states and the European Commission to draw up policy packages to "influence [transport patterns] into a sustainable direction." As a key measure, the paper recommends "further progress" in fair and efficient pricing for the use of transport infrastructure, such as the kilometre taxes suggested in a Commission white paper last year (ENDS Daily 22 July 1998). The environmental costs of transport, it says, "may not be fully covered by current taxes and charges." Ministers call on the Commission to make new proposals on transport pricing by the middle of next year.

Other priorities, the report says, are the promotion of land use planning practices to reduce the demand for transport, a common transport policy which "puts public transport on a better footing in relation to private cars," and the use of telematics and a better coordination of "intermodal" transport.

The paper also warns of the "major challenge" ahead as countries on the EU's eastern borders begin to join the union. Predicting that enlargement will entail a "substantial" increase in traffic within and between the new members, it calls for their transport ministers to "follow the integration principle" when formulating their own transport strategies.

Follow Up:
EU Council of Ministers, tel: +32 2 285 6111.

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