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Urban Road User Charging Online Knowledge Base

What Is The Importance Of The Theme?

For the last decades transport policy at international, national and local levels has been increasingly linked to environmental aspects. Since the 1990s “sustainable transport” and “sustainable mobility” have been key concepts in transport policy making, pointing at the need to integrate environmental concern with other aspects (social, economic) in all transport related decisions. This development is based on an increased understanding that humanity is facing a number of environmental problems that are large and challenging, and that the transport sector contributes substantially to many of these problems.

To further emphasise the importance of the theme, a few illustrative examples of goal and trend discrepancies from the European Environmental Agency reports (EEA 2001, 2003, 2007, 2008) are presented as follows:

• Reaching the EU target of keeping the increase of global average temperature to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels will require much larger reductions of global emissions of greenhouse gases by 2020 than is given by the Kyoto agreement for 2010. Much stronger policy efforts than those currently seen will be necessary to reach the necessary reductions in the next decade.
• Further, trends and projections clearly show that current technology oriented policies have not been enough to succeed in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transport, since the effect of introduced mitigation measures has been more than offset by increased transport volumes.
• To achieve emission reductions, future policies must also address demand for transport. Achieving targets in line with the 'Bali roadmap' would require transport volume growth to be limited to + 4 to – 2 % over the period 2010–2020, compared to a growth of 15 % in a business-as-usual scenario.
• Currently, transport contributes approximately 20 % of the EU’s total emission of greenhouse gases, but this share is rapidly increasing due to fast rises in demand for transport. A baseline scenario forecasts a 31 % rise in transport emissions above 2000 levels by 2030, of which four-fifths are expected from road transport.
• The Stern Review (Stern, 2006) illustrates how climate change – and thus the emissions from the transport sector - impact long-term economic growth. The Review concludes that strong and early action can save large economic costs which would be the result of not acting. These benefits far outweigh the costs of such action. If no action is taken the overall costs of climate change will be equivalent to losing between 5 and 20 % of global GDP per year, depending on the level of risks and impacts that are taken into account. In contrast, the Review states that the costs of action can be limited to around 1% of global GDP a year. In order to succeed action has to be taken on an international level and strong and difficult policy decisions have to be made.
• The Eddington transport study (Eddington, 2006) focuses on transport in UK, and emphasises the need for environmental impacts from transport to be fully considered in decision making and – as a means to achieve that - the importance of getting the prices right across all transport modes.

• The health effects of pollutants can range in severity from death to minor illness or discomfort. Substantial variations in sensitivity to an exposure may occur between individuals, due to age, nutritional status, genetic predisposition and state of general health.
• For a number of pollutants, CEC(20005) has set maximum levels of concentrations/exposure to protect human health. Despite the fact that these limits are legally binding, substantial parts of the population (in particular those living in urban areas) are still subject to concentrations in excess of those levels.
• For particulate matter (PM10) as well as ambient air nitrogen dioxide (NO2) 23-45% of the urban population in the EU was potentially exposed to concentrations in excess of the EU limit value. There was a slight downward trend for NO2 over the period, but no discernible trend for PM10. Road transport contributes substantially to both PM10 and NO2 problems, and EEA (EEA(2005), p.99) concludes that “…it remains likely that for some decades to come, many urban areas in the EU-25 will continue to have unsafe concentrations of particulates, largely because of the continued growth in road transport”.

• It is clear that environmental noise can affect people's health and quality of life. The exact magnitude of the problem, and detailed dose-response relationships, are yet to be quantified. An important contribution to the understanding is expected from an ongoing research programme on the topic, funded by the World Health Organisation WHO (ECEH, 2009). The list of “main” health risks identified there covers a wide range: including fatigue and annoyance, sleep disturbance (with all its long and short term consequences), reduced productivity and learning difficulties, and cardiovascular effects and hormonal responses (which in turn may have consequences for the immune system).
• In 1999, it was estimated that more than 30 % of EU citizens were exposed to road noise levels above 55 Ldn dB(A) (”highly annoyed”), and more than 15% to levels above 65 Ldn dB(A) (”detrimental to health”).
• Further to the Commission proposal for a Directive relating to the assessment and management of Environmental noise (COM(2000)468), the European Parliament and Council have adopted Directive 2002/49/EC of 25 June 2002 whose main aim is to provide a common basis for tackling the noise problem across the EU.

• Urban quality can heavily influence the attractiveness of an area or region. The ability to for example take a pleasant walk, in clean air, in a well managed urban environment increases residents’ quality of life. For example, the definition of Quality of life in EEA’s environmental glossary puts the emphasis on the amount and distribution of public goods (such as health care), protection against crime, regulation of pollution and preservation of fine landscapes and historic townscapes.

From the above it should be clear that environmental issues will remain central to transport policy making for a long time. Urban road user charging (RUC) will not be an exception to this rule. Rather, the relation between urban road user charging and environmental issues is close and twofold.

First, with an appropriate design, road user charging schemes can be used to help tackling several of those environmental problems that are caused by traffic (as will be shown in Section 8.3 below). This should be acknowledged, also in those cases where charging is introduced primarily for efficiency reasons. Calthrop and Proost (1998) point to the fact that any transport policy should consider all externalities (i.e., congestion delay and environment) simultaneously. Secondly (and as will be shown in Section 8.4), public environmental concern may increase the acceptability of road user charging generally. This is a very important aspect, since lack of acceptability is otherwise known to be the main stumbling block for practical implementation of theoretically sound charging policies.