Curbing mobility has to be an option

EU unlikely to hit Paris Agreement target without urgently phasing out fossil fuels, generating more low-carbon electricity, and cutting consumer demand for oversized vehicles

Even though the European Union’s climate policies are some of the most aggressive around the globe, EASAC’s latest report finds they are unlikely to deliver emission reductions quickly enough to limit climate warming and meet Paris Agreement targets.

In a new report on transportation and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC), a body that represents the national science academies of the EU, Norway and Switzerland, finds that “current EU policies are unlikely to deliver emission reductions quickly enough to limit climate warming to less than 2°C”. GHG emissions from transportation need to be addressed urgently as they represent 24% of all GHG emissions from the EU. Of this 24%, road transport dominates, making up nearly three-quarters of this total.

One key recommendation from EASAC is that EU policies need to adequately and visibly address the timely phase-out of fossil fuels. Stronger phase‐out policies, regulations and incentives are needed to deliver cost-efficient reductions in GHG emissions from the transport, energy, buildings and industry sectors as they increasingly compete for supplies of low-carbon electricity. International collaboration, new business models and citizen engagement will become more important as falling fossil fuel consumption makes oil and gas prices more volatile.

A huge gap exists between the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions projected in the 2016 EU Reference Scenario and the level of emissions needed to limit global warming to less than 2°C or even further to 1.5°C as noted in IPCC’s recent special report. This gap points to the need for urgent action.

“We are not on track to meet the Paris Agreement targets. However, we’re optimistic that the current dire situation can be turned around if policy-makers put coordinated ‘avoid, shift and improve’ measures into place quickly. EASAC’s report urges policy-makers to curb demand for inefficient passenger and freight transport, oversized vehicles and aviation, to promote healthy walking and cycling in urban areas, to phase out fossil fuels and produce more low-carbon electricity, to incentivise low-emission vehicles and fuels, and to invest in energy infrastructure and high-quality public transport”, said Dr William Gillett, Director of Energy at EASAC.

Top changes policy-makers need to make


  • Contain the demand for conventional motorised transport, and reverse EU policy that “curbing mobility is not an option”.


  • Shift passengers from private cars to public transport services (trains, buses, trams, etc).
  • Shift more freight off the road and onto railways or waterways.


  • Introduce regulations during the transition period to decrease consumer demand for oversized vehicles and oversized engines.
  • Reduce the average emissions of all passenger cars and light duty vehicles during the next 10 to 15 years – a crucial transition period.
  • Increase the rate of market penetration of battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles for passenger transport as soon as possible.
  • Increase the penetration rate of low-carbon electricity generation into the grid urgently.
  • Adapt the design and regulation of electricity markets and tariffs that apply to electric vehicles, so that costs are minimised for all consumers.
  • Simplify guidance on use of biofuels, biogas, natural gas and methane for transport.
  • Increase resources for the development of technologies for producing synthetic fuels.
  • Increase the levels of investments in information and communication technologies and autonomous vehicles.
  • Strengthen preparations for long term emission reductions by making long term policy commitments to invest in interdisciplinary research, innovation, jobs and skills.

Notes for Editors

This report was triggered by discussions between EASAC energy steering panel members on the challenges faced by the EU in the light of the Paris Agreement, particularly the challenge of reducing carbon emissions from the transport sector, which relies almost totally on fossil fuels. It was also stimulated by the EU energy and climate package, which was released in November 2016, entitled “Clean energy for all Europeans” and the three packages of the EU initiative “Europe on the Move”.

The aims of the report are to:

(i) summarise the latest independent, objective, scientific evidence related to the decarbonisation of transport,

(ii) explain the potential impacts on GHG emissions of recent and expected developments in transport demand management, clean vehicles and energy carriers, infrastructure and emerging digital technologies, and

(iii) highlight what could be done through transport, energy and climate policy as well as investment support to maximise the contribution of the transport sector to the EU’s decarbonisation commitments at affordable costs.

A group of eighteen experts, who had each been nominated by their national science academies, came together in July 2017 to discuss the decarbonisation of transport at a workshop with officials from six Directorates General of the European Commission (MOVE, ENER, CLIMA, ENV, REGIO and JRC) as well as experts from ITF–OECD, ACEA and ICLEI. During the workshop, it was noted that GHG emissions from the European transport sector currently represent approximately 24% of total GHG emissions from the EU and that, within the EU transport sector, the emissions are dominated by those from road transport (72%), with those from passenger cars and LDVs amounting to about 53% and those from buses and heavy goods vehicles to about 19%. After this workshop, it was concluded that EASAC should focus on the biggest challenge, which is road transport. This report therefore focuses on the decarbonisation of road transport, with only brief comments on rail, maritime transport and aviation.

Climate change has captured the attention of both policy-makers and the wider public over the past year. At COP24, the EU’s leaders and leaders from around the globe met but could not agree to “welcome” the IPCC’s special report on limiting global warming to 1.5°C, although they did agree on the rulebook needed to begin implementing the Paris Agreement in 2020.

About the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC)
EASAC is formed by the national science academies of the EU Member States, Norway and Switzerland, to collaborate in giving advice to European policy-makers. EASAC provides a means for the collective voice of European science to be heard. Through EASAC, the academies work together to provide independent, expert, evidence-based advice about the scientific aspects of European policies to those who make or influence policy within the European institutions.


Contact information

Dr William Gillett

EASAC Energy Programme Director

Mobile: +44 7879 635 740

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