Road traffic: volume trends and environmental pressure, 1990-2016

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Implemented measures resulted in a decrease in emissions of particulate matter and nitrogen oxides, despite an increase in the number of vehicle kilometres. Carbon dioxide emissions have decreased slightly since 2009 due to more fuel efficient vehicles. Because of the recovery of the economy since 2015 the emission of carbon dioxide increased slightly.

Carbon dioxide emissions

Between 1990 and 2008, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from road traffic increased more or less in proportion to the number of vehicle kilometres. Between 2008 and 2016 the emission decreased by 14%, which is among other things due to the fiscal benefits of purchasing fuel efficient cars. The 2016 emissions are almost equal to 2015.

Nitrogen oxide and particulate matter emissions

Emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter from road traffic decreased year on year after 1990, despite the fact that the number of vehicle kilometres increased by 39% between 1990 and 2016. In the case of NOx, this can be mainly attributed to the introduction of the three-way catalytic converter in cars and vans at the end of the 1980s in response to emission standards. The reduction in particulate matter (PM10) emissions was mainly due to improvements made in engines. A further reduction, in particular after 2005, was achieved by the use of diesel particulate filters. Almost every new diesel vehicle was supplied with an in-built diesel particulate filter after 2011, and existing vehicles were also equipped with diesel particulate filters (retrofit). Over 80 thousand cars and vans and almost 27 thousand heavy duty vehicles had been fitted with a retrofit filter. In 2016 35 thousand and 8 thousand respectively were still active.

Policy objectives

The general policy objective is to achieve a decrease in emissions across the economy in addition to growth in gross domestic product (GDP).


Technical explanation

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Verantwoordelijk instituut
Geografische verdeling

Reference of this webpage

CBS, PBL, RIVM, WUR (2024). Road traffic: volume trends and environmental pressure, 1990-2016 (indicator 0127, version 29,

) Statistics Netherlands (CBS), The Hague; PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, The Hague; RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, Bilthoven; and Wageningen University and Research, Wageningen.