Lithuania's failure to take additional measures will lead to a fast increase in air pollution from transport, OECD Secretary General Mathias Cormann warns.
“The transport sector is the biggest polluter in Lithuania, emitting around 40 percent of pollution. Emissions have increased in this sector and without additional measures they will continue growing fast,” he said during the presentation of Lithuania's first Environmental Performance Review in Vilnius on Monday.
Lithuania should introduce advanced transport technology and electrify railways, he said.
“These are steps in the right direction but to have a climate-neutral transport system, we need bigger goals, we need measures to promote transition towards sustainable forms of mobility,” the OECD chief said.
He pointed out that Lithuania had one of the lowest excise duty rates on petrol and diesel among OECD countries. Moreover, the diesel excise duty is lower than that for petrol, even though the use of diesel by households and the agriculture sector is increasing pollution.
Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė says the government will present excise duty changes. According to her, current rates do not discourage people from using polluting fuel.
The excise and car pollution taxes will be adjusted this autumn, Environment Minister Simonas Gentvilas says.
Lithuania should also increase public spending on the environment, the OECD secretary general said. In 2018, it stood at merely 0.3 percent of GDP, much lower than the OECD average of 0.8 percent.
“It is very important to make sure investments in this area to stand at 3 percent GDP over the next decade. Planned measures should reduce that gap, but private measures are also necessary,” Cormann said.
Lithuania's GDP grew by 50 percent from 2005 to 2018, and CO2 emissions considerably dropped in the industrial sector, production of energy from renewable resources doubled and amount to 22 percent, but greenhouse and waste emissions remained unchanged.
No tightening of parking rules
Lithuania's Transport Minister Marius Skuodis told LRT Radio on Tuesday that he agreed with most of the OECD's recommendations, especially to develop public transport, cycling and pedestrian infrastructure to offer an alternative to car use.
“I am somewhat worried about [...] the recommendations to scrap the requirement for mandatory parking spaces in new apartment blocks, to raise parking fees and to eliminate free parking in cities,” he said.
“I have no doubt that, on the demand side, such measures would certainly discourage people from using cars. But until we have a well-organised public transport system, and cycling and walking paths, alternatives, I personally would not dare to take such measures,” he added.