Laying the foundations for greener transport — TERM 2011: transport indicators tracking progress towards environmental targets in Europe

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Courtesy of European Environment Agency (EEA)

The European Council, at its summit in Cardiff in 1998, requested that the Commission and transport ministers focus their efforts on developing integrated transport and environment strategies. At the same time, and following initial work by the European Environment Agency (EEA) on transport and environment indicators, the joint meeting of the Transport and Environment Council invited the Commission and the EEA to set up a Transport and Environment Reporting Mechanism (TERM), to enable policymakers to gauge the progress of their integration policies. Over the decade from 2000 to 2010, the EEA reported on the integration aspect as well as on the environmental performance of transport with reference to targets included in the Transport White Paper from 2001 (EC, 2001b).

With the launching of a new White Paper on Transport in 2011 (EC, 2011a), the TERM Steering Group (see acknowledgements below) agreed to adapt the structure of the TERM report to the different aims and targets of this new paper. Some of these aims and targets are in reality reflections of already existing regulations and policies, for example in the area of transport noise, air emissions and air quality, while the white paper's only new environmental target relates to greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction by 2030 and 2050.

A white paper is not a concrete policy measure, but rather an overall policy strategy. Looking back at the previous white paper on transport (EC, 2001b), one sees that it has to a large extent been the agenda-setting document for the decade. The 2011 white paper set 10 goals for a competitive and resource-efficient transport system which serve as benchmarks for achieving the 60 % GHG emission reduction target. When referring to 'targets' in the TERM report, these should be understood as 'goals' in most cases, in contrast to legally binding mandatory targets. In spite of their non-binding nature in many cases, it is expected that these targets will form the basis for regulatory developments over the next decade, and as such, will be subject to monitoring.

The TERM process with its original environmental integration aim was based on a set of indicators geared towards answering seven key questions:

  • Is the environmental performance of the transport sector improving?
  • Are we getting better at managing transport demand and at improving the modal split?
  • Are spatial and transport planning becoming better coordinated so as to match transport demand to the need for access?
  • Are we optimising the use of existing transport infrastructure capacity and moving towards a better-balanced intermodal transport system?
  • Are we moving towards a fairer and more efficient pricing system that ensures that external costs are internalised?
  • How rapidly are cleaner technologies being implemented, and how efficiently are vehicles being used?
  • How effectively are environmental management and monitoring tools being used to support policymaking and decision-making?

The TERM indicator list covers the most important aspects of the transport and environment system (driving forces, pressures, state of the environment, impacts and societal responses — the so-called DPSIR framework). These indicators are still relevant, but in order to sharpen the focus on the targets a core set of indicators for transport (TERM CSIs) has been developed. These indicators — derived from the original TERM set — cover issues such as energy consumption, emissions, transport demand, price developments and fleet monitoring. The intention is that this set of indicators will provide snapshots both of 'what is happening' in the transport sector and of 'why it is happening'.

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