GUILDFORD, Surrey, UK, October 14, 2016 E(NS) – The European Union’s own internal policy processes are blocking the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions across the 28-member bloc, finds new research by an international team from Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Researchers from Sweden’s Linnaeus University, the University of Surrey and the Buckinghamshire New University in the United Kingdom, interviewed policy officers in three Directorates-General of the European Commission on whether the policy process is on track to achieve climate objectives for the transport sector.


Traffic around the Place de la Concorde, Paris, France emits greenhouse gases, June 24, 2015 (Photo by Peter Lee)

They found that emission reductions are hampered by existing policies that are seen to lack sufficient ambition, the interviews showed.

And there is internal disagreement over who is responsible for policy development.

Scarcity of data is regarded as a problem, especially in knowing whether the EU is on track to meet its targets.

Some policy officers are favoring economic goals over environmental ones, and their own professional backgrounds in industry are creating a bias towards serving the interests of industry lobby groups, the researchers learned.

There is seen to be unfair lenience towards the aviation and automobile industries.

Policy officers are pinning their hopes on new ‘silver bullet’ technologies that do not yet, and probably will not, exist, to help reduce emissions, researchers learned.

Such research is important because transport is a significant and growing contributor to climate change.

The researchers recognized that substantial cuts in greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector are needed to achieve safe global warming levels as defined by international agreements such as the incoming Paris Climate Agreement, set to take effect November 4.

The European Union has set goals to reduce the sector’s emissions of greenhouse gases by 20 percent by 2020, and 40 percent by 2030, compared to 1990.

Stronger leadership on climate mitigation for the transport sector is needed at the highest levels within and between the Directorates-General, the interviews showed.

Co-author Dr. Scott Cohen from the University of Surrey said, “With the share of transport emissions increasing fom 18.8 percent in 1990 to 25.3 percent in 2012 and with the likelihood of this number continuing to rise, it has become crucial to address climate change objectives specifically in the transport sector.

“Our study has revealed that there are fundamental problems with the European Union’s policy processes governing the climate change targets,” said Dr. Cohen. “It is clear that these need to be addressed urgently if we are to have any hope of introducing transport policies that will have any significance in global efforts to mitigate climate change.”

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