Impact of New Road Infrastructure on CO2
The generative effects of new road transport infrastructure on greenhouse gas emissions, and the impact on Belgian climate policy
Road transport represents an important share of total Belgian CO2 emissions: approximately 18%. In its 20-20-20 program against climate change, the European Union has set the emission reduction target for the Belgian transport sector at -15% (2020 vs. 2005). According to most projections, with current policy (business as usual or BAU), only an 8% reduction will be achieved. The main driver is the efficiency improvement of the transport fleet.
Belgian authorities are considering several road infrastructure expansion projects to improve the flow of traffic and decrease stress on current infrastructure. However, new infrastructure tends to make transport more attractive, thus generating new traffic. This study has looked at 3 projects that are currently being considered, and the impact their developments may have on CO2 emissions.
Building new road infrastructure, without any flanking measures, will lower the projected reduction to 6.3%. From the perspective of CO2 emissions, it is highly recommended only to expand these roads in combination with all required flanking measures (e.g. road pricing, improvements in public transport).
1) Expansion of the Brussels Ring (R0)
Road transport on and around the R0 represents approximately 13% of total Belgian road transport CO2 emissions. The official MER (environmental effects) reporting was the main source of information. However, this official report did not consider the pure effect of an infrastructure expansion (only the combined effect of new infrastructure with measures like road pricing). By comparing different MER scenarios, an approximation of expected CO2 emissions could be calculated.
Additionally, the generative effect was considered. New infrastructure makes transport easier, faster and cheaper, which will induce new trips. Our calculations show that an expansion of the Ring with new lanes, without any flanking measures, could bring CO2 emissions back to the 2005 level within 5 years.
2) Oosterweel link, Antwerp
CO2 emissions in the considered area in and around Antwerp are approximately 18.5% of total Belgian road transport emissions, which is more than the R0 (Brussels).
As no official MER reporting was available for the Oosterweel link, the assessment is based on traffic volumes from the Antwerp Masterplan 2020. In the BAU scenario, CO2 emissions remain at the same level between 2005 and 2020. Building the new link would lead to an increase of emissions by 0.4%, while the realisation of the entire Masterplan would decrease CO2 emissions by around 4%.
We made a cautious assessment of the generative effect of the new link in the medium term. This showed that within 3-5 years after completion of the link, an increase of emissions of 2.3% may occur. For the full Masterplan, there is still a reduction of emissions, yet it is only -1.5%. While it is clear that the reduction target of 15% is not within reach, it is recommended to perform further research on traffic evolution (as will likely be done for the MER report).
3) A new, fast connection (type Nx) between the E40 motorway and Sint-Truiden, in addition to the current N80 (type Nxx)
Given the current profile of the connection (with only very limited congestion), the development of a new link will more likely result in better separation of local and transit traffic than in generating new traffic. No significant impact on CO2 emissions is expected.
Final report (Dutch): Effect van Infrastructuur op CO2 in BelgiŽ final.pdf
Presentation (Dutch): Infrastructuur en CO2 Greenpeace handout.pdf
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