Emissions to rise as lorry traffic volume soars

Austria is moving further away from meeting agreed greenhouse gas emission limits as lorry traffic is on the rise.New figures presented by the Austrian Traffic Club (VCÖ) today (Thurs) show that the volume of lorry traffic on Austria’s busiest motorways increased year on year in 2010.The organisation, which examined road authority Asfinag’s annual data, said most lorries were registered on the A1 western motorway near Haid with 4.38 million, up by 4.1 per cent compared to 2009.The country’s A2 southern motorway came second in 2010. More than 4.07 million lorries drove past a road toll checkpoint near Wiener Neustadt last year, around 2.3 per cent more than in the previous year.Vienna’s A23 Südosttangente took third place in 2010. Almost 3.89 million lorries drove along the motorway in 2010, which is a 5.3 per cent increase compared to 2009 figures.VCÖ added that more traffic by lorries was registered at checkpoints on nine of Austria’s 11 busiest motorways and main roads in 2010 compared to the year before.”These figures confirm that the volume of lorry traffic rose again after a decline in 2009 when many businesses were affected by the economic crisis,” VCÖ said today.VCÖ recorded a 20 per cent year on year decline from 2008 to 2009 when lorry traffic figures resembled the amount registered in 2005.The organisation, which has campaigned in favour of eco-friendly traffic alternatives, once more appealed on Federal Railways (ÖBB) and the government of Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the People’s Party (ÖVP) to make railway cargo transportation a more attractive option for firms.ÖBB angered VCÖ last month by deciding to increase its fees by around 30 per cent in a bid to reduce its debts. The company, which has not yet presented its business figures for last year, said at that time it may suffer losses of around 300 million Euros in 2010.The cash-strapped firm argued that it was forced to raise its prices in the cargo transportation sector as its subsidiary company Rail Cargo Austria (RCA) has not been making a profit for years. This decision may lead to an even higher amount of cargo being transported on Austrian roads.These developments are expected to worsen Austria’s emission statistic.The SPÖ-ÖVP’s attempts to present Austria as an eco-conscious nation were dealt a further blow only last week when it emerged that it is far away from keeping its greenhouse gas emission rate below the 1997 Kyoto Agreement limit.Austria registered an overall carbon dioxide equivalent pollution of 80.1 million tons in 2009, 6.8 million tons fewer than in 2008 but significantly more than the limit of 68.8 million ton it promised not to exceed.ÖVP Environment Minister Nikolaus Berlakovich stressed there was a “sinking trend”, but also warned that 2010 figures may produce a less pleasant image since they are expected to be higher than the 2009 rate due to the recovery of the federal economy.Non-government organisation (NGO) Greenpeace Austria emphasised that Austria is “miles away” from meeting the Kyoto limit, while Greens MP Christiane Brunner said the result was “pitiful”.Petra Bayr of the SPÖ suggested to encourage companies to invest more in eco-friendly methods and environment protection measures, while FPÖ deputy leader Norbert Hofer said it was a “disaster” that Austria must brace for penal payments of 600 million Euros for failing to meet its targets.”Austria failed to meet the Kyoto figures even at the peak of the credit crunch,” a Greenpeace spokesperson said, while Robert Lugar of the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) appealed on Berlakovich to step down.”It seems he has got nothing to say to on how Austria can turnaround the current developments,” Lugar said.Berlakovich said in December: “I don’t want to hear any more Sunday speeches (on the issue). We must regard climate change as an opportunity to raise investments.”The minister previously stressed that his target was to bring 250,000 electric cars onto Austrian roads by 2020.Berlakovich infuriated environmentalists when he claimed last year that Austria was “enjoying world fame” for its development of  environmental technology.”We will create 100,000 new ‘eco jobs’. Protecting the climate does not just save the environment, but also creates work,” he said, adding that his ministry was seeking support from the government to invest hundreds of millions of Euros into a planned “master plan for a green jobs initiative”.