The five major concerns of EU citizens are:
- Greenhouse emissions leading to global warming
- Air and water pollution
- Inactivity leading to obesity, diabetes type 2 Cancer Heart Disease etc
- Road danger causing death, injury and severance to communities
- Roads causing destruction to biodiversity
Europeans suffered from heat waves, droughts and wildfires last Summer. These are the extreme weather events which scientists associate with climate change, caused by man made greenhouse emissions. A heatwave pushed temperatures above 40C (104 Fahrenheit), causing drought and wildfires, including blazes in Greece in July that killed 91 people.
The ‘Hothouse Earth’ report, published in August 2018, says ‘the world is at risk of entering “hothouse” conditions where global average temperatures will be 4-5 degrees Celsius higher. The report highlights that, even if the carbon emission reductions called for in the Paris Agreement are met, there is a risk of Earth entering what the scientists call “Hothouse Earth” conditions.
The plaintiffs demand that the court annuls 3 climate-related laws adopted by the European Parliament and the Council of the EU. Crucially the EU’s emissions trading system (the regulation on greenhouse gas emission reductions) does not cover the agricultural and transport sectors.
Transport is now the biggest contributor to greenhouse emissions in the EU.
The three pieces of legislation are the EU’s main legal response to achieve its 2030 climate targets, but the plaintiffs argued that the goals have been set too low to comply with the 2015 Paris Agreement.
The 2030 climate and energy targets were set by EU leaders a year before the international UN climate treaty was signed in the French capital. “The EU’s existing 2030 climate target is too low to protect people and their fundamental rights,”
“We firmly believe that this court case will prove that the climate target needs to be significantly raised to ensure a safe future for all of us.” said Wendel Trio, director of Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe.
Air and water pollution in Europe
Dirty air resulted in the premature deaths of more than 500,000 people in the European Union in 2014, the European Environment Agency reports. Pollution needs to be reduced, agency heads and environmentalists agree.
Motor vehicle exhaust emissions and non exhaust brake tyre and road wear particulates are the major cause of air and water pollution in the European Union. Micro plastics from 60% plastic derivative motor vehicle tyres are a major contributor to ‘plastic soup’ water pollution.
A sedentary lifestyle is a very serious worldwide problem, especially in North America and Europe. Unfortunately, physical inactivity, which has progressively increased over the past several decades, significantly increases the risk of numerous diseases/disorders, including several forms of cancer, diabetes, hypertension, coronary and cerebrovascular diseases, overweight/obesity, and all-cause mortality, among others. Unless there is a reversal of this sedentary lifestyle, the incidence of these diseases/disorders will increase, life expectancy will decrease, and medical costs will continue to rise.
The EU funded PASTA PROJECT found that cycling is the healthiest way to get around . The second-most beneficial transport mode, walking, was associated with good self-perceived general health, greater vitality, and more contact with friends and family.
The percentage of people who cycle remains low in all European cities, except in countries like the Netherlands and Denmark, which means that there is plenty of room to increase bicycle use’ says Ione Ávila Palencia
Dr Audrey de Nazelle, from the Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial, said: “This study adds to existing evidence that walking and cycling for transport is good for your health, and also makes people interact socially more. Combined with other issues like air pollution, it makes sense to think much more holistically about the impacts of our urban policies.
“For example, as London is trying to grapple with major health problems such as air pollution, social isolation, and obesity, why not tackle them together and get a bigger bang for our buck by promoting walking and cycling?”
Road danger causes death, injury and severance to communities
In the EU 30,000 lives lost every year to accidents and the 120,000 permanently disabling injuries.
New roads cause destruction to biodiversity
Transport represents almost a quarter of Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions and is the main cause of air pollution in cities. The transport sector has not seen the same gradual decline in emissions as other sectors: emissions only started to decrease in 2007 and still remain higher than in 1990 (see graph below). Within this sector, road transport is by far the biggest emitter accounting for more than 70% of all GHG emissions from transport in 2014.
Passenger cars accounted for 83.1 % of inland passenger transport in the EU-28 in 2015, with motor coaches, buses and trolley buses (9.2 %) and passenger trains (7.7 %) both accounting for less than a tenth of all traffic (measured by the number of inland passenger-kilometres (pkm)travelled by each mode) — see Figure 1.
The passenger car was by far the most important mode for passenger transport in all Member States. In Portugal and Lithuania passenger cars accounted for close to 90 % of all passenger transport in 2015. The Czech Republic and Hungary were the only Member States were the shares of passenger cars were below three quarters. For Hungary, this was reflected in the highest share of motor coaches and buses among the Member States, as well as a high share also for passenger transport by train. The Member States with the highest share of passenger transport by train were Austria (12.0 %) and the Netherlands (10.8 %). However, this was well below the EFTA country Switzerland, were trains carried out 19.1 % of all passenger transport in 2015.
Most car usage is for short trips that can be walked or cycled. 40% of car trips in England are under 2 miles. 68% are under 5 miles.
The European car is parked 92 percent of the time – often on valuable inner-city land. When the car is used, only 1.5 of its 5 seats are occupied. The deadweight ratio often reaches 12:1. Less than 20 percent of the total petroleum energy is translated into kinetic energy, and only 1/13 of that energy is used to transport people. As much as 50 percent of inner-city land is devoted to mobility (roads and parking spaces). But, even at rush hour, cars cover only 10 percent of the average European road. Yet, congestion cost approaches 2 percent of GDP in cities like Stuttgart and Paris.
The European Union has two primary types of legislative acts, directives and regulations.
A directive is a legal act of the European Union which requires member states to achieve a particular result without dictating the means of achieving that result. It can be distinguished from regulations, which are self-executing and do not require any implementing measures.
Even though directives were not originally thought to be binding before they were implemented by member states, the European Court of Justice developed the doctrine of direct effect where unimplemented or badly implemented directives can actually have direct legal force. In the important case of Francovich v. Italy, the ECJ extended the principle of Van Gend en Loos to provide that Member States who failed to implement a directive could incur liability to pay damages to individuals and companies who had been adversely affected by such non-implementation.
Here is my suggestion for a European Directive
European Directive (draft)
- Every village, town and city in the European Union must have a walking and cycling network, accessible for everyone, including children and people with disabilities.
- Everyone must have the opportunity to walk and cycle safely going about their daily life.
- Everyone must have the opportunity to live a carfree lifestyle.
- This must be backed up by an integrated, accessible and joined up Public Transport Network
- Ban motor traffic from the core of every town, city and village