Road vehicle pollution
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Road vehicle pollution “6.2% higher than before pandemic”

Environmental association Zero says 2024 must be a turning point

Gas emissions from road transport in Portugal have increased by 6.2% compared to the pre-pandemic period, environmental association Zero said on Monday, warning of the threat to climate targets and demanding a “red light”.

In a statement, Zero – Sustainable Earth System Association pointed out that “emissions associated with the consumption of diesel and petrol in road transport are constantly increasing”, according to calculations based on the Rapid Statistics on Fossil Fuels, published by the Directorate-General for Energy and Geology.

Considering the period between July 2022 and July 2023, emissions totalled 18.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, 6.2% more than in the period between July 2018 and July 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Between July 2022 and July 2023, the increase was 5.4%, the association estimated, pointing out that this is happening “despite the fact that road fuel prices are at historically high levels, almost a million people have adopted the hybrid work regime and the sharp loss of purchasing power”.

According to Zero’s accounts, the biggest increase was in the consumption of 95 petrol (12.9%), while diesel rose by 4.9%, which shows that the source of the increase in emissions stems more from greater use of light vehicles than heavy goods vehicles.

Zero attributes this increase to many causes, one of them the fact that former public transport users have started using their own private cars, “as a way of reducing the risk of contagion” of Covid-19.

At the same time, “the great expansion of partial or totally remote working schemes may have reduced the relative cost of using individual transport compared to social passes, increasing the attractiveness of the car,” it noted. In addition, “the departure of many tens of thousands of residents from the municipalities of Porto and Lisbon (around 70,000 between 2019 and 2022) due to the sharp rise in housing prices” may have increased commuting by car.

There was also an increase in the number of tourists “visiting regions further away from Lisbon, Porto and Faro airports” by car.

Zero also analysed aviation emissions, estimating that they grew by 4.7% between the same two reference periods (2018-2019 and 2022-2023), a figure that continues to “cause concern”.

The association stressed that it was “absolutely critical” to adapt public policies to this scenario and, in order to combat the “bleak situation”, proposes better bus passes, more public support for electric vehicles and the “substantial reinforcement” of the railway.

“The incentives that companies still have to buy fossil fuels and fossil-fuelled vehicles,” as well as to pay tolls and parking fees, need to be strongly reviewed,” he said.

“It is also urgent not only to stop the outflow but to start returning residents to the centre of Portugal’s largest cities,” with better public transport networks and “where it is easier to dispense with the use of individual cars,” it pointed out.

For the association, 2024 has to be a “turning point” year since, in order to achieve the 2030 climate targets, “emissions from the transport sector have to be reduced by 2% every year, starting next year”.

Source: LUSA