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Transportation Emissions Rise, Fall With Economy

The current economic crisis has caused greenhouse gas emissions by the transportation industry to decline on a global scale, according to a recent study by the International Transport Forum.

According to the report, GHG emissions caused by transportation declined 3 to 10 percent in the last two years, the largest decline in the past 40 years, according to the report. However, GHG emissions rose by 45 percent from 1990 to 2007, and are expected to climb another 40 percent from 2007 to 2030 unless changes are made.

The transportation industry accounts for 15 percent of total global GHG emissions, according to the report.

Some countries, including France and Germany, did see GHG emissions in the transportation sector stabilize or decline even prior to the economic downturn.

Road sector emissions dominate transport emissions with light-duty vehicles accounting for the bulk of emissions globally. In certain ITF member countries for which estimates can be made, road freight accounts for up to 30 percent to 40 percent of road sector CO2 emissions though the breakdown amongst freight vehicle classes varies amongst countries.  Emissions from global aviation and international shipping account for 2.5 percent and 3 percent of total CO2 emissions in 2007.

The transportation industry is not the only one that has seen its GHG emissions decline as a result of the ebb in economic activity. The U.S. industrial sector saw a 3 percent decline in GHG emissions last year, stemming from the recession. Meanwhile, energy-related CO2 emissions in the U.S. fell by 7 percent or 405 million metric tons — the largest drop over the past 60 years ago.

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