Date: Sat, 15 Nov 97 13:20:27 CST
From: Mark Graffis <>
Article: 21943

Europe adopts recommendations for cleaner transport

By Rolf Soderlind, Reuters, 15 November 1997

VIENNA (November 15, 1997 11:35 a.m. EST - European countries adopted recommendations on Friday to cut pollution from road and air transport and switch more freight to cleaner rail and waterway systems.

Non-government organisations noted that the decisions taken at the meeting—the first pan-European conference on transport and the environment—were non-binding and urged governments to set concrete timetables and targets and to address the issue of growing transport demand.

The U.N.-sponsored conference—a follow-up to the 1992 Rio Earth Summit—adopted recommendations to demonstrate the political will by European governments to reduce pollution from transport such as road and air freight.

We have achieved a common understanding of what the problem is, Austrian Environment Minister Martin Barteinstein said in a closing statement to the conference, which was attendd by about 40 environment and transport ministers.

We have moved towards identifying, jointly, ways to overcome the problem. Now the challenge before us is to move jointly towards implementation.

Recommendations included strengthening of existing emission standards for road vehicles, new laws curbing aircraft noise and guidelines for shifting road and short-haul air traffic to rail and waterways.

Also, 20 countries signed a separate agreement for standardised, periodical inspections of trucks and other wheeled vehicles, while 11 countries signed a deal to further develop container transport on European rivers and canals.

Progress will be reviewed at a follow-up meeting in 2002.

Bartenstein in an opening statement on Wednesday said Europe's roads would be choked with three times as many cars and five times as much freight if present trends continue for the next three decades.

Rail and public transport—considered more cost-effective and environmentally-friendly—would decline by 25 to 30 percent in Europe between 1994 and 2030, he said.

Despite technological progress assumed, especially for road vehicles, in the trend projection, CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions from transport would be doubled, he said.

Gijs Kuneman, spokesman for a European forum of 43 non-government organisations (NGOs), said it was a success in itself that the conference had taken place, but that the outcome should have been more concrete.

The good thing is that the ministers have talked to each other, he said. I can see a huge awareness-raising effect from this conference, especially in the East but also in certain countries in the West and in southern Europe.

But there is no guarantee for action. Nothing will happen in the short term, and in certain countries nothing will happen at all, but in some countries some change will be made.