Europe's next big move to confront climate change should be to tackle rapidly growing emissions from transport, with more road tolls and greener cars, trains and trucks, a top EU environment official said.
Greenhouse gases from transport have soared in recent years, fueled by globalization and a worldwide economic boom.
The European Union hopes the tricky issues of shipping and aviation will be tackled in a global climate deal in Copenhagen in December, leaving land transport to be dealt with at a regional level.
We've been very successful in reducing the emissions of the power sector and manufacturing by around 15 to 20 percent since 1990, but we've been neutralizing that with an increase in emissions from transport, said Jos Delbeke, number two in the European Commission's environment department.
We have to be much more ambitious on the nuisance of transport services, he added. We need a climate and transport package, blending the question of climate change, pollution and transport together to make a quantum jump.
Delbeke said he had been pleased with the impact of last year's rules to phase out gas-guzzling cars.
Many environmentalists have criticized EU leaders as too soft on the powerful automotive sector with a 23 percent cut to average emissions from new cars phased in over the next six years.
With hindsight it is more meaningful than some claimed, Delbeke said.
It has clicked with the car manufacturers, which are now looking at things very differently, and are proud to say in an advert when a car's emissions are just 120g (of carbon dioxide per km).
The legislation has coincided with an economic slump that has dented the fortunes of big auto, particularly car makers that specialize in powerful models such as General Motors with its thirsty Hummer and Pontiac brands.
The economic crisis is helping us, but the disaster of American car manufacturing and the fast reaction of the Asians partly on the basis of our regulations shows that we did it right and at the right time, Delbeke said.
Everybody is investing like hell in energy efficiency, the electric car and the hybrid.
Despite being critical of mid-term goals for cars, environmentalists were united in their support for the EU's most ambitious target for such vehicles -- a longer-term goal of cutting CO2 emissions to 95 grams per kilometer by 2020.
But many privately voiced fears the long-term target would be watered down in a review in 2014. Delbeke said those fears should prove unfounded.
The 95g target for 2020 should stay, he said. The target is an indicator that 120g is not the end of the story. We had hardly a car in that range when we made the proposal, but today there are already several and we are only in 2009.
Legislation on vans is coming, he added. It will be a similar approach to cars, but taking account of the greater wind resistance, weight and bigger engines in vans.
Transport has exploded in Europe in recent years due to the opening of borders and efforts to spur competition, with booming shipping and airlines helping to push up transport emissions by around 35 percent since 1990.
I'm quite nuanced on the issue of limiting transport growth, because we have to manage growth and play much more on shifting the mode of transport, he said.
I'm very much in favor of the principle of polluter pays, for example road tolls, which can be done electronically to make them much easier for the user.
Rail is the most attractive in the short term, but its market share is so limited, so we'd have to double or triple capacity.
(Editing by Dale Hudson)