Absolute decoupling of emissions and passenger transport
Since 2000, the number of passenger-kilometres (road and rail) has increased faster than the population. In 2008, passenger transport decreased by 1.2 % due to the financial-economic crisis, and then increased again.
In the last decade, there was an absolute decoupling of the emissions from passenger transport and the passenger-kilometres. The decrease in greenhouse gas emissions was due to the increasing use of energy-efficient vehicles and biofuels for road traffic. There were more energy-efficient vehicles on the market as a result of the compulsory standards that the EU imposes on car manufacturers for the CO2 emissions from new cars. Federal tax incentives promoted the purchase of these vehicles. In 2010, the average CO2 emissions from new cars in Flanders decreased from 147 g/km to 138 g/km. In early 2012, the tax incentives were abolished for budgetary reasons. The impact of this measure on the total CO2 emissions will become clear later on. Renewable energy was responsible for 4.2 % of the total energy consumption of transport, passengers and freight together, in 2010. Biodiesel had the largest share of this and bio-ethanol was responsible for about one-tenth, green power remained marginal. In 2008, the share of renewable energy was only 1.2 %, while in 2009 this was 3 %. The emissions of ozone precursors, acidifying components and PM2.5 from passenger transport continued to decrease due to the tightening of European emission standards for new vehicles and fuels. The lower number of passenger- kilometres in 2008 resulted in a larger decrease in emissions that year. For passenger transport, the emissions of ozone precursors and acidifying components were higher in 2010 than in 2009. The new calculation method in fact estimates the NOx emissions from Euro 5 diesel vehicles to be higher than those of most of the other Euro classes, in line with actual driving conditions.
Only a relative decoupling of greenhouse gas emissions and freight transport
During the last ten years, the number of tonne-kilometres of freight transport (road, rail and inland navigation) increased more than the gross domestic product (GDP). The financial-economic crisis caused a reduction in the transport activity and also in the global GDP. The crisis had more impact on freight transport than on passenger transport. In 2010, the market recovered, but only partly.
Although trucks are also becoming more energy-efficient, the greenhouse gas emissions from freight transport increased due to an increase in activity. The emissions, however, increased more slowly than the tonne-kilometres. There was a relative decoupling. In 2009, there was a decrease in emissions due to the crisis. In 2010, the greenhouse gas emissions from freight transport exceeded the 2009 level. Not only the recovery after the crisis but also modifications to the method explained the higher emissions. In 2011, the European Commission also imposed standards for the CO2 emissions from light duty vehicles for the first time, on average 175 g/km by 2017. The proposed standard of 147 g/km by 2020 remains to be approved by the European Council and the European Parliament.
For freight transport too, the emissions of ozone precursors, acidifying components and PM2.5 (exhaust) decreased due to tighter European emissions standards. There was an absolute decoupling from the tonne-kilometres. The sharp decrease in acidifying emissions and emissions of ozone precursors in 2009 was due not only to the crisis, but also to the introduction of Euro V engines in trucks. These engines emit fewer nitrogen oxides than their predecessors. In 2010, the emissions were higher than in 2009 as a result of a higher estimate for the number of kilometres. This was due to the recovery in activity but also to changes made to the method. In 2010, the share of freight transport (excluding aviation and inland maritime shipping) in the total emissions from transport was 44 % for greenhouse gases, 59 % for acidifying substances, 57 % for ozone precursors and 48 % for particulate matter emitted via exhaust.