Short-haul flights within Europe up by 48 per cent

Plane flying over palm trees

Air travel is the fastest growing sector of transport in Europe

Report highlights rapid growth in short-haul flights within Europe and the failure to tackle air pollution from road transport

Air travel within the EU remains the fastest growing sector of transport although growth in its greenhouse gas emissions has slowed, according to the European Environment Agency (EEA).

Car journeys still make up the majority of all passenger kilometres in Europe (72 per cent) but air travel's share increased from 6 to 9 per cent between 1997 and 2007.

Overall GHG emissions from the transport sector increased by 28 per cent in Europe between 1990 and 2007 and now account for 19 per cent of all emissions.

However, if transport infrastructure, manufacture and emissions associated with oil and gas exploration are included the figure reaches to almost one-third of Europe's GHG total.

The growth in GHG emissions from aviation slowed from 6.4 per cent in 2005/6 to 0.9 per cent 2006/7 (the last year of reference) but the EEA said this was down to slower demand growth and that it expected continued growth in the long-term because of the close link between aviation and economic development.

Air pollution

The EEA report also highlighted the continued problem of air pollution from the transport sector - road transport is the largest emitter of nitrogen oxides and the second largest contributer of particulate matter (PM), which is particularly harmful for asthma sufferers.

EU-wide policy measures such as fuel quality and vehicle emission standards for new vehicles have reduced emissions but most EU member states still do not comply with PM limits introduced in 2005.

The UK is one of those missing the EU targets with nitrogen dioxide levels - on busy roads levels have been recorded at 200-300 per cent higher than the EU limits, according to air pollution experts at King's College London.

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