The European Commission provides an update of the internalisation of the external costs in the transport sector

On 17 December 2018, during the conference on Multimodal sustainable transport, the European Commission shared the preliminary results of a study on sustainable transport infrastructure charging and the internalisation of transport externalities aimed at assessing the implementation of the ‘user pays’ and ‘polluter pays’ principles.

The externalities are generated by transport users that involve a cost to society, concerning the negative effects that transport has on the environment and on health, in particular air pollution, climate change, costs related to energy production (such as noise pollution and habitat damage).

The preliminary findings show that the total external costs of transport amount to the equivalent of around 1,000 billion euro annually, which corresponds to almost 7% of EU28 GDP. Road causes more than three quarters of the transport external costs.

Users do not fully pay the total costs (external and infrastructure) that they are responsible for and this is true for all transport modes. Road users pay for a bigger share of their total costs than rail users, but rail users pay for a bigger share of their external costs. In the aviation sector, the costs paid by users roughly cover the infrastructure costs, but only a small amount of the environmental costs. Waterborne transport users pay the smallest share of their total costs compared to users of other modes. Therefore, it is the “society pays” rather than the “user pays” and “polluter pays” principles that is implemented in the EU.

According to the European Commissioner for Transport, Violeta Bulc, “… [t]he findings will help us define the right incentives and charging models in order to promote a level-playing field among transport modes, as well as support our goal of zero roads deaths by 2050 (Vision Zero)…”.

The study will be finalised in May 2019 and presented at the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council meeting in June 2019.

For further information, see the following LINK.


Davide Scavuzzo