Downturn in traffic-related carbon dioxide emissions

Long-term progress:
With the exception of carbon dioxide emissions, most other traffic-related emissions have decreased markedly since the 1980s.
Short-term progress:
In the last five years, carbon dioxide emissions from transport have also taken a downturn.
Progress in relation to targets:
Emission reduction targets set for traffic are tough, but they can be met. However, this will require a major effort and large investments.

Traffic-related carbon dioxide emissions in Finland 1980–2012

Traffic-related carbon dioxide emissions

Traffic-related nitrogen oxide emissions in Finland 1980–2012

Traffic-related nitrogen oxide emissions

Traffic-related carbon monoxide emissions in Finland 1980–2012

Traffic-related carbon monoxide emissions

Source: LIPASTO. VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. 2014.

Most traffic-related emissions have clearly fallen since the early 1980s, even though traffic volumes have increased. Cleaner combustion of fuels and control of exhaust gas emissions by catalytic converters have contributed to curbing emissions. Catalytic converters were made compulsory in new cars at the beginning of 1992.

Although other traffic emissions declined thereafter, carbon dioxide emissions continued to grow until 2005. Since then, even carbon dioxide emissions have seen a downturn mainly thanks to increasing use of biofuels and lower emission levels of new cars.

According to a forecast by LIPASTO – a calculation system for traffic exhaust emissions and energy consumption in Finland – carbon dioxide emissions will remain in some 15-16 million tonnes for the next few years.

The EU has set an ambitious goal for traffic-related carbon dioxide emissions: in 2050, emissions should be 60% lower than in 1990. This is still a distant goal because, in 2011, emissions remained some 4% higher than in 1990.

The Climate Policy Programme for the Ministry of Transport and Communication for 2009–2020 defines a road map for a 2.8 million tonnes cut in carbon dioxide emissions from transport, compared to presently estimated emission volumes for 2020. This would entail a reduction of almost 20% compared to 1990 emissions.


  • Climate Policy Programme for the Ministry of Transport and Communications’administrative sector for 2009–2020. Programmes and strategies 2/2009. Ministry of Transport and Communications. 2009.
  • LIPASTO. VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. 2014.

Numbers of people living in noisy areas along main traffic routes in 2011

Noisy areas along main traffic routes

The numbers of people living in noisy areas along main traffic routes were assessed in a survey, in accordance with the EU’s Environmental Noise Directive. The Directive defines roads on which the annual number of vehicles exceeds 3 million as main traffic routes. The survey included some 2,080 kilometres of such roads. In rail traffic, main routes are those which more than 30,000 trains pass through every year. In Finland, only 375 kilometres of railway qualified for inclusion in this category. Source: Finnish Transport Agency. 2012.

Disturbing noise almost everywhere

Noise is one of the most widespread pollution problems. In fact, it is so widespread that now we not only monitor areas affected by severe noise but also make an effort to find silent areas – tranquil places that are not necessarily completely free of noise from traffic and other human activity but have lower noise levels than surrounding areas.

A nationwide survey of exposure to environmental noise was last conducted in 2005. At that time, it was estimated that some 800,000–900,000 Finns lived in areas where daytime noise exceeded 55 decibels. Approximately 90% of residents of noisy areas were exposed to road and street noise.

In terms of the EU’s Environmental Noise Directive, noise surveys have been conducted in recent years on population centres of over 100,000 inhabitants, main traffic routes and large airports. Completed in 2012, this survey concluded that, for example, 48% of Helsinki residents lived in an area where noise levels exceed 55 decibels. This figure was up by 6 percentage points from 2007.


  • Liikonen, L. & Leppänen, P.: Altistuminen ympäristömelulle Suomessa – tilannekatsaus 2005. Suomen ympäristö 809, ympäristönsuojelu. Ministry of Environment. 2005.
  • Helsingin kaupungin meluselvitys 2012. Helsingin kaupungin ympäristökeskuksen julkaisuja 8/2012.


Published 2015-04-28 at 13:15, updated 2016-07-21 at 17:04