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Towards integrated policies

Transport is a major contributor to CO2 emissions. But can policymakers make a difference? We asked Anu Vehviläinen, Finland’s minister for transport, and chair of the first International Transport Forum in Leipzig in May 2008.



OECD Observer: What in your view are the priorities transport ministers should address in tackling climate change?

Anu Vehviläinen: First and foremost an integrated approach is needed when tackling climate change. Bear in mind that transport, though an industry in its own right, is essentially an intermediary service, providing added value for other sectors of human life and other industries. This clearly means that a reduction of transport demand, volumes and related emissions should be supported by other relevant policies, such as land use planning, fiscal, industry, regional and spatial planning policies. What we need is an integrated approach, with better coherence between these policies.

An integrated approach means that all kind of policy instruments–economic, legislative and technical instruments, including also alternative fuels–are used as actively and widely as possible to reduce transport-related emissions. Economic instruments in particular can and should be used more widely to have an impact on transport behaviour and consumer choices.

Are there any innovative measures Finland is taking that you think we can all learn from?

One recent key initiative has been a new differentiation scheme for our car sales tax in accordance with CO2 emissions, which the Finnish government introduced 1 January 2008. Each gram of CO2 makes a difference to the sales tax and therefore also a difference to the price of the car. Already in the last three months, CO2 emissions of new registered passenger cars have decreased quite dramatically–by around 10%–thanks largely to this differentiation scheme. Average CO2 emissions of new registered passenger cars were around 179 g/km in 2007, but were 163 g/km in January-March 2008.

Similar differentiation schemes will be introduced for the annual motor vehicle tax–that’s the so-called user charge–from the beginning of 2010. In order to enhance the positive impacts of our car sale tax amendment on consumer choices, we are planning to introduce a new, more informative eco-labelling scheme for passenger cars. Such a labelling scheme should be based on the ABCDEF model that is widely used for eco-labelling of household appliances.

Another example is the voluntary energy efficiency and energy saving agreements that we have agreed with transport operators, including freight and public transport operator associations. Our aim is to reach at least a 9% improvement in energy efficiency of freight and public transport in 2008-2016. This will mean energy efficient requirements for procurement of transport services, ecodriving and technical measures, such as tyre pressures and other inspection and maintenance measures.

Finally, I’d like to mention the high market share of public transport in the Helsinki metropolitan area. Around 70% of all peak hour trips back and forth between the city centre and the suburbs are made by public transport. Public transport fares, particularly for monthly or annual tickets, are very competitive. Moreover, public transport services are very reliable, frequent and of high quality in the Helsinki area.

What messages would you like ministers and the public to take away from the Leipzig conference?

Transport-related emissions are increasing globally and jeopardising the achievement of CO2 reductions achieved in other sectors. Transport policy and the transport sector must take their share of the burden in climate change abatement. In the long run, vehicle technology and alternative fuels will assist us in decarbonising transport, but in the short and medium-term a wide selection of measures should be taken. As I emphasised earlier, we need an integrated and coherent policy approach to make a difference.

The public should be made more aware of the role of transport in climate change. As we all are drivers or transport-service users, we as individual citizens can have quite an impact on transport-related emissions with our daily choices. We can all make a difference. The public should be aware that we as transport ministers are committed to fight climate change, but support from individual citizens is needed in this challenging work.

©OECD Observer No 267 May-June 2008