Chapter 4. Sustainable mobility

Sustainable transport is critical for mitigating climate change, reducing air pollution and other environmental damages. The benefits of sustainable transport extend beyond the environment, delivering improvements in productivity, health and well-being. Advancing sustainable mobility requires redesigning mobility systems to ensure that people can have easy access to jobs, opportunities, and goods and services. Generating adequate and equitable access also implies increasing proximity between people and places. This, in turn, can support governments in accelerating climate action, while also delivering on broader well-being and sustainable development objectives (OECD, 2019).

Lithuania is facing a number of pressing environmental challenges associated with mobility policies. Urban areas are dominated by individual motorised transport with associated problems of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and air pollution, noise, traffic injuries and congestion. Urban sprawl characterised by increasing low-density development has helped make people more dependent on cars. It has led to significant costs of providing public services and transport infrastructure. The generous tax treatment of fossil fuels, particularly diesel, along with the low vehicle taxation, has spurred car ownership and use (Chapter 3).

Coherent policy action will be needed from different levels of government to steer urban development and transport towards more sustainable pathways. Lithuania needs a clear strategy with intermediate GHG reduction targets for the transport sector to ensure progress towards the 2050 carbon neutrality goal. Co-ordinating land-use and transport planning will be essential for curbing urban sprawl and reducing the need to travel at excessively long distances. Fiscal policy instruments, in particular fuel and vehicle taxes, will need to be adjusted to correct policy biases that favour automobile travel over more sustainable and affordable modes. Promoting a modal shift in urban transport from cars towards walking, cycling, public transport and other forms of shared mobility is vital for a low-carbon transport future. Moving to alternative vehicle fuels and electric vehicles (EVs) are equally important elements of change.

Transport demand has been strongly correlated with economic activity. Accession to the European Union (EU) in 2004 fuelled Lithuania’s economic growth until 2008, which drove transport demand for both passenger transport and freight activity. Since 2008, public transport and car use have been declining. Despite reductions in passenger-kilometres travelled, Lithuania saw a 26% increase in energy demand in the transport sector. This was associated with a rapid increase in road freight activity; ageing of the vehicle fleet and an increasing share of imported second-hand, highly polluting cars. Figure 4.1 illustrates these trends. Both passenger and freight transport activity declined in 2020 as a consequence of measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

Private car is the dominant mode of transport in Lithuania. In 2018, cars accounted for 90% of all passenger transport movement. This category was followed by buses with a share of 8.5% (Figure 4.2). In urban areas, car use tends to be lower, although it remains the main mode of transport. In Vilnius, for instance, car use represents 48% of the modal split. Despite a well-established bus network, the modal share of public transport is 25%, which is low compared to other EU countries. Over the past decade, both passenger transport and passenger-kilometres were declining. The decrease of car use was largely due to strong population decline, falling demand for long-distance travel and development of local urban centres.

With about 512 cars for every 1 000 inhabitants, Lithuania’s motorisation rate is below the EU average (Figure 4.2). Between 1990 and 2018, motorisation grew close to fourfold from only 133 cars per 1 000 inhabitants. Starting in 2014, the number of new cars in the market has stabilised at around 1 200 new cars per year (Statistics Lithuania, 2021). However, the number of used cars in the overall vehicle fleet has been increasing. Over three recent years, second-hand vehicles accounted for 77% of the total vehicle fleet. Over 60% of cars are 10-20 years old; another almost 20% are over 20 years old (Government of Lithuania, 2020a). The increasing share of older cars has obvious environmental implications, as older cars tend to have poorer fuel economy and higher emissions.

In 2019, diesel cars accounted for 68% of registered cars, while petrol cars accounted for 23%. Hybrid, electric and plug-in hybrid electric cars accounted for less than 2% of the fleet in 2019 (Table 4.1). Lithuania’s vehicle fleet is among the oldest in the European Union, with an average age of 15 years and average carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of 160-170 g/km. As in many other European countries, a growing share of diesel vehicles in the overall vehicle fleet has raised concerns over increasing urban air pollution. The number of petrol cars decreased and, as a result, petrol fuel consumption dropped between 1990 and 2019. Over the same period, the number of diesel engines increased significantly from 116 000 to more than 1 million (Government of Lithuania, 2020a).

Lithuania’s transport fuel taxes are among the lowest in the European Union. The growing share of diesel vehicles has largely been the result of tax rates for diesel being historically much lower than for petrol, thus not reflecting CO2 and air pollutant emissions appropriately. Rectifying this distortion is part of the government’s 2021 green tax reform proposal (Chapter 3). In July 2020, Lithuania introduced a motor vehicle registration tax that is based on vehicles’ CO2 emissions and fuel used, with different amounts levied on diesel-, petrol- and gas-powered vehicles. The new tax is a step towards renewal of the car fleet with more fuel-efficient or electric vehicles, which is projected to reduce CO2 emissions and air pollution. However, the tax rates remain low compared to other EU countries (Chapter 3).

In 2018, passenger car use was approximately 30 billion passenger-kilometres. Over 2006-18, it oscillated between the high of more than 39.4 billion passenger-kilometres in 2006 and the low of nearly 24.3 billion passenger-kilometres in 2014 (Statistics Lithuania, 2021). The declining demand for long-distance travel and the development of local urban centres played a role in decreased car use in the country.

The use of public transport across the country declined from 6.4 million passenger-kilometres in 2000 to 4.1 million in 2011. It then increased to 5.5 million in 2018 before dropping again to 4.9 million in 2019. COVID-19 had adverse effects on public transport use: passenger numbers across all public transport modes fell from 827 000 to under 350 000 from the first to the second quarter of 2020 (Statistics Lithuania, 2021).

Buses and trolleybuses but also cycling, walking and different forms of micromobility have emerged as alternatives to the private car over the last decade. Yet, in terms of modal split, cities in Lithuania still have low use of active transport, particularly cycling. Vilnius, for instance, has the third largest proportion of walking as a mode of transport in the modal split with 24%. However, only 1.5% of residents cycle. This is largely due to the limited cycling network and generally low level of services such as the number and density of bike stands and number of bike-sharing operators. The length of cycle paths in the capital region grew from a low base of 140 km in 2015 to only 204 km in 2019 (Statistics Lithuania, 2021). This is small compared to other European cities, such as Paris, where cycle paths grew from 700 km to 1 000 km over 2015-20 (ITF, 2021).

The volume of freight transport has been increasing rapidly every year since 2010, with road playing an increasingly important role. More than half of all goods are transported by road. However, the proportion of road transport in Lithuania is far below the EU average. Railways’ share in freight is far above the EU average.

Between 2011 and 2014, the Russian Federation (hereafter “Russia”) was the largest market for exporters of goods transported by road, accounting for 26-32% of the export value of transport services annually. However, the Russian economy experienced a downturn beginning in 2014. This led to a decline in the export value of goods transported by road to the country by as much as 71% between 2014 and 2016. Lithuanian road freight transport companies have rapidly and successfully reoriented the export flows of goods, achieving a 12.6% annual growth of export value already in 2016. These goods have flowed primarily to Western European markets.

The freight volume carried by rail increased from 14 million tonnes-kilometre in 2015 to 16 million in 2019. One main factor hindering further increase of rail freight is the lack of appropriate railway infrastructure on Lithuania’s south-north axis. This problem is expected to be solved by the Rail Baltica project, which has the potential to offer an attractive rail connection.

Increasing car ownership and use, along with growing road freight activity, give rise to negative environmental effects (GHG emissions, air pollution and noise), as well as increasing congestion and safety risks. Cars represented 58% of Lithuania’s total transport energy consumption in 2018, followed by trucks (38%), which are high shares by international comparison. Emissions from transport have been increasing and are projected to rise steeply until the end of this decade. This is problematic as the country faces challenging decarbonisation targets for 2030 for sectors not included in the Emissions Trading System (ETS), transport in particular (Section 4.5).

Transport accounted for 30% of Lithuania’s total direct GHG emissions (or 54% of total energy-related CO2 emissions) in 2018, making this sector the largest emitter, followed by agriculture (21%). While emissions from agriculture remained relatively stable, the transport sector saw high growth (39%) during 2013-18. In 2018, road transport accounted for 96% of GHG emissions from passenger cars and heavy-duty vehicles and 28% of the total national GHG emissions. GHG emissions from both passenger cars and road freight transport are growing (Figure 4.3). Lithuania’s railway system is mainly driven by diesel oil, which represents 3% of the total fuel consumption in the transport sector (Government of Lithuania, 2020a).

Over 1990-2018, the transport sector’s energy consumption significantly increased. In 1990, the transport sector accounted for 17.6% of the total GHG emissions caused by energy use, whereas in 2018 it surged to 51.3%. Transport emissions have been growing by approximately 3.6% annually. This growth is influenced by the rapid expansion of the road network and increase in the number of road vehicles. In 2018, GHG emissions from road transport increased by 6.4%. This is primarily due to a 7% increase in diesel consumption and 9% in gasoline consumption by road transport (Government of Lithuania, 2020a). International freight plays an important role in the recent surge in the sector’s energy consumption. Given that fuel prices, particularly for diesel, are lower than in neighbouring countries, the scale of fuel tourism is high. Transiting freight trucks are filling up in Lithuania and thus adding some 20% to the country’s diesel demand.

According to projections (Government of Lithuania, 2020b), under the “with existing measures” scenario, the total number of internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles is projected to grow by 2.9% per year until 2023. After that, growth is expected to slow to 0.5% per year until 2030 as a result of implementation of sustainable urban mobility plans (SUMPs).

With Lithuania’s population decline, the number of ICE vehicles is projected to further decrease by 0.5% per year between 2030 and 2040 (from 1.81 million to 1.71 million vehicles). However, even in this scenario, GHG emissions in all but one transport sub-sector would increase or remain stable. One exception will be the railway sector, where electrification is projected to reduce fossil fuel consumption by 30% by 2030 and by 47% by 2040 compared to 1990, leading to lower GHG emissions.

Road transport is projected to remain the only consumer of gasoline and diesel in the sector. According to forecasts, the gasoline consumption will increase by 38% while diesel consumption will decrease by 5% by 2040. As a result, road vehicles will account for 96% of GHG emissions in the transport sector in 2040. In 2023, GHG emissions from the transport sector are expected to be 10% higher than in 2017. They will then decline over 17 years, almost reaching the 2017 value in 2040 (Government of Lithuania, 2020b). The current increase is driven by the growing fossil fuel demand in road transport. The later decrease is expected due to the declining population and implementation of SUMPs in Lithuanian urban areas.

Railways will remain the second largest GHG emissions source in the transport sector. Civil aviation will be a minor contributor, even though its GHG emissions are projected to increase by 50%: only eight aircraft companies operate in the country, and most flights are international.

Under the “with additional measures” (WAM) scenario, GHG emissions from the transport sector would decrease by 37% in 2030, compared to 2017. The WAM scenario is based on additional measures planned by the ministries of Environment; Transport and Communications; Energy; and Agriculture. The planned policies and measures in the transport sector for 2020-30 would promote use of EVs, introduce vehicle pollution taxes and increase the efficiency of passenger and freight transport (Section 4.5). Measures related to vehicle pollution taxes (annual car pollution tax and differentiation of the vehicle registration fee by level of pollution) are projected to have the greatest impact on reducing GHG emissions.

All additional measures would continue in 2031-40. This would cause GHG emissions from the transport sector to decrease by 35% in 2040 compared to 2005 (by 52% compared to 1990). The effect of the planned additional measures would increase gradually and intensify after 2024 (Government of Lithuania, 2019). This would help the country reach the target 9% reduction by 2030 (compared to 2005 level) for non-ETS sectors that is defined based on the EU Effort Sharing Regulation. The European Commission estimates that without additional measures Lithuania may miss the target by 15 percentage points, provided there is no debit in the land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) sectors (EC, 2020).

The transport sector is the principal source of two main local air pollutants – nitrogen oxides (NOx) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5). These contribute 71% and 23.5%, respectively, of the total national emissions according to the national emission inventory data for 2018. According to emission estimates, most transport NOx emissions are generated by road travel. Heavy-duty vehicles emit the largest share, representing 78.5% of all road transport emissions in 2018.

Despite more transport fuel consumption, vehicle fleet modernisation resulted in a decrease of NOx emissions over 2005-18. In 2018, NOx emissions decreased slowly by 12% in the road transport sector compared to the 2005 level. In this context, achieving national pollution reduction targets in the transport sector remains one of the main air pollution challenges in Lithuania. With the projected further increase of fuel consumption in transport, modernisation of the fleet will not be enough to reduce NOx emissions to reach the national targets.

Road transport is also the main source (91% in 2018) of the sector’s PM2.5 emissions. Total PM2.5 emissions from transport decreased by 7% over 2005-18. As with NOx emissions, the main factors affecting PM2.5 emissions are fuel consumption and vehicle efficiency. The steady introduction of cleaner vehicles is projected to bring PM2.5 emissions down in the coming years.

Five air quality monitoring sites in Vilnius, Kaunas, Klaipėda (two) and Šiauliai track the impact of traffic on air quality. According to monitoring data from these sites, road transport has a significant impact on pollution with particulate matter. Over 2005-19, the allowable daily limit value was exceeded at least once at each of these sites. Most such exceedances were registered in Vilnius (seven times) and Kaunas (six times). No cases of exceedance of ambient standards for NOx were recorded in 2005-19. The highest NOx concentrations are usually observed in Vilnius due to its intense traffic.

The biggest sources of noise pollution in Lithuanian cities are from traffic (road, rail and air) and large industrial activities. Following the 2006 EU Environmental Noise Directive, cities with population of over 100 000 have been obliged to produce noise maps. Local traffic, rather than motorways or rail services, is the main cause of noise pollution (EEA, 2019). In 2019, 61% of the population of Vilnius was exposed to high noise levels – more than 55 decibels (A) – from road traffic. This share is even higher for urban areas of Šiauliai and Klaipėda: 78.8% and 76.9%, respectively (EEA, 2019).

Vilnius has a traffic congestion level of 22% (TomTom, 2019). This means that, on average, a 30-minute trip will take 28% longer than during baseline uncongested conditions. Many social and environmental issues are to some extent related to traffic congestion, especially air quality and noise. Longer commutes have real economic costs. According to some estimates, the cost of time lost due to aggravated congestion in Vilnius equals EUR 480 million annually (Mačiulis, 2016). These costs, however, consider only the value of time lost due to congestion. Other non-financial implications include journey quality or travelling in more crowded public transport; increased fuel consumption and other vehicle operating costs; increases in vehicle emissions; or other intangible factors that make the area generally less desirable.

Road fatalities in Lithuania are above the EU average (67 dead per million inhabitants in 2017). However, Lithuania is one of the EU countries with the strongest reduction in the number of road deaths in recent years. Since 2000, road deaths have decreased by 70%. In 2017, the mortality rate was 6.7 road deaths per 100 000 population and was approaching the EU average. A new road safety strategy in preparation will be based on a vision of zero killed and seriously injured in traffic.

Analysis by road user group shows that more than half of road deaths are vulnerable road users.1 In 2017, car occupants accounted for the largest share of road deaths, with 51% of the total. They were followed by pedestrians (35%), motorised two wheelers (7%) and cyclists (7%). Compared to other EU countries, the share of pedestrians among road deaths is high. Since 2010, all road users have benefited from the improvement in road safety. The largest decrease was registered among cyclists (-43.5%), pedestrians (-37%) and motorcyclists (-33%). According to police data, inappropriate speed is the main cause of traffic crashes in Lithuania, especially on rural roads where a large majority of fatalities occur (57% in 2017) (ITF, 2018a).

The Ministry of Transport and Communications (MTC) is responsible for national transport policy. The MTC oversees all modes of transport (road passenger/freight transport, rail, sea, inland waterways and air), as well as safety and logistics. It implements Lithuania’s targets on energy efficiency in transport, as set under the Law of Energy Efficiency. The MTC’s Strategic Planning Division considers European transport policy, forms national strategy of transport and communications, and integrates main provisions from European documents into national ones. The Traffic Safety Division takes part in assuring safe traffic and defining the priorities in safety improvements.

The Transport and Road Research Institute analyses conditions of road infrastructure, studies traffic flows on Lithuanian roads, and prepares transport development programmes and normative documents for road and bridge maintenance. The Lithuanian Road Administration organises and co-ordinates the construction, maintenance and development of roads of national significance.

In addition, several policy divisions of the Ministry of Environment work on transport-related issues. The Territorial Planning, Urban Development and Architecture Department is responsible for sustainable urban planning. Horizontal co-ordination, however, remains limited. More collaboration, both internally and externally, is needed between the MTC and other ministries, agencies and stakeholders. This is especially important when it comes to decisions related to land-use planning and location of basic services.

Municipalities develop local strategic planning documents, and organise and manage the local transport network. The MTC provides guidance and support to develop local planning documents, particularly SUMPs (Section 4.5.2), by channelling EU funding and preparing the necessary guidelines and technical documents. Yet city administrations often have autonomy to decide how and when to implement different projects. This means that decision makers at the national level only provide guidelines and directives but ultimately cannot enforce them in municipalities. Lithuania is lacking clear mechanisms to monitor the performance of cities in meeting climate change mitigation objectives set in a variety of national strategic documents. This may be hindering the effectiveness of national policies and strategies for moving towards low-carbon transport system.

In the past decade, Lithuania has developed several strategic policy documents, laws and guidelines aimed at reducing the environmental impact from different sectors. Decarbonising the transport sector has been highlighted as critical for meeting national climate change mitigation objectives. Several policies, laws and guidelines highlight the importance of reducing transport-related GHG emissions, encouraging travel by non-motorised modes and improving fuel efficiency.

Under the 2030 EU Climate Target Plan, the European Union's ambition is to reinforce effort-sharing targets to achieve at least a 55% GHG emission reduction below 1990 levels by 2030. To deliver on this new commitment, Lithuania’s NCCMA for 2021-50 sets more ambitious national targets in all sectors. The new target for non-ETS sectors is to reduce GHG emissions by 25% by 2030, compared with 2005, superseding the previous 9% reduction target.

Lithuania aims to cut GHG emissions from transport, the most challenging sector, by 14% compared with 2005, which corresponds to a 42% decrease compared with 2019. The NECP for 2021-30 lays out sector-specific measures, including those for transport, that contribute to 2030 climate targets. However, it will be updated by 2023 to be fully aligned with goals and targets of the NCCMA.

The NCCMA defines several objectives that would support achieving the national emission targets for the transport sector:

  • Achieve a 50% share of annual purchases of electric vehicles (EVs) and low-emission vehicles and reduce the number of cars powered by conventional fuels (petrol and diesel) in cities by 50% by 2030.

  • Reduce the use of fossil fuels in passenger cars by 40% by 2030 compared to 2017.

  • Reach a 15% share of renewable energy sources (RES) in the transport sector’s energy consumption by 2030 and 90% (including 100% for rail) by 2050.

  • Increase the use of second-generation biofuels to 3.5% of the sector’s energy consumption.

The 2021 Law on Alternative Fuels presents a framework for achieving the 15% share of renewable energy by introducing various measures, such as vehicle taxes and low-emission zones (LEZs) in urban areas. It will put additional focus on use of advanced liquid and gaseous second-generation biofuels, electrification of the vehicle fleet and the rail system. However, even with these planned policies, transport emissions are projected to increase by 2030. If needed, Lithuania has an opportunity to compensate up to 6.5 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (t CO2 eq.) of the needed reduction in all non-ETS sectors with credits from the LULUCF sector (EC, 2020).

The NOx reduction targets for transport are set in the National Progress Plan for 2021-30. The plan includes fiscal and regulatory incentives targeting NOx and PM2.5 emissions: switching to less-polluting individual and public transport modes, including electrification of the railways. As some measures are needed at the local level, their success will depend on the willingness and capacity of municipalities. In addition, none of the measures target heavy-duty vehicles, which contribute the largest share of road transport’s NOx emissions (78.5% in 2018) (Government of Lithuania, 2020a). More consideration is needed to reduce air pollution impacts of road freight (EC, 2020).

Another initiative, the National Programme on the Development of Transport and Communications for 2014-22, is a medium-term strategic planning document for the transport sector. This programme is intended to support national policies by developing a sustainable transportation system and increasing the sector’s competitiveness, while managing resources and EU funding effectively. The programme aims to increase the mobility of goods and passengers, and improve the corridors of the EU Trans-European Transport Networks and their connections with national and local transport networks. Additional objectives are to increase the energy efficiency of transport, reduce the adverse impact of transport on the environment and improve traffic safety. The programme also identifies key targets for the development of infrastructure for alternative energy sources in transport, including electricity and liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Ensuring consistency among all the strategies remains a challenge. For instance, the national transport programme foresees advancing construction and planning of new motorways. This risks locking in an emission-intensive development pathway and exacerbating car dependency, with consequences for the environment.

All aforementioned policy documents focus on a gradual shift towards cleaner fuels and electricity in the transport sector to achieve decarbonisation targets. Yet Lithuania is struggling to achieve existing targets. For instance, a commitment to achieve a 10% RES share in transport by 2020 has not been met (this share is around 5%). The focus on improving vehicle technologies may not deliver the degree of decarbonisation required to achieve the new 2030 target of cutting GHG emissions from transport by 14% compared with 2005. It is essential to transform the old car fleet into a newer and more efficient one. At the same time, a shift to less carbon- and space-intensive modes and less distance between people and places warrant additional incentives.

Since 2015, cities and towns across Lithuania have developed their local strategic planning documents – SUMPs. The objective of SUMPs is to foster integration of all transport modes while encouraging a shift towards sustainable travel. The European Commission has emphasised the relevance of SUMPs in several policy documents and provides funding for the development of such plans. The MTC played an important role in supporting the development of SUMPs by channelling EU funding and preparing the necessary guidelines and technical documents. Although several ministries helped develop guidelines, it has been predominantly a transport-led process. There has been little reference to other important elements affecting sustainable mobility, such as land-use planning (Section 4.6.1).

The measures envisaged in SUMPs are projected to help achieve national GHG reduction targets by promoting use of sustainable transport (Figure 4.4). They identified improving public transport through dedicated bus lanes and shifting the fleet to alternative fuels as key to reducing environmental impacts from mobility. Municipalities also plan to invest more in improving conditions for cycling and walking. SUMPs include provisions for implementing LEZs in cities and lowering speed limits. Additionally, charging and refuelling stations for LNG and compressed natural gas (CNG) are planned to reduce the environmental impact of freight.

The adoption of SUMPs offers Lithuanian cities an opportunity to have a long-term vision for sustainable mobility actions. It also increases chances to access EU funds. In this context, the developed SUMPs focus on measures to be funded by EU investments and much less on measures that should be funded by national or local budgets. Additional support from the national government will be needed for implementation.

The MTC is developing funding programmes (using EU investments or other financial sources) to implement sustainable mobility measures. To monitor the efficiency of local SUMPs, the MTC is planning to develop a national monitoring and evaluation scheme. It will be also valuable to link national funds to the progress of urban areas towards reducing environmental impacts of mobility. Additionally, providing guidance for project evaluation and improving co-ordination between national investment and implementation of local actions will be useful for prioritising low-carbon mobility in urban areas.

Lithuania has taken positive steps towards reducing environmental damage from mobility. To accelerate penetration of fuel-efficient vehicles, Lithuania has recently reviewed its taxation system and introduced a CO2-based vehicle registration tax on motor vehicles (Chapter 3). To increase the pace of EV uptake, Lithuania has put in place additional financial support for purchasing low-carbon vehicles. With support of the European Union, the government is planning major infrastructure projects, such as Rail Baltica; increased capacity on rail services; and a phased transition of the public transport fleet to lower-emission fuels. Additionally, Lithuania is introducing new support schemes for biofuels, biomethane and hydrogen to reach a 15% share of RES in final energy consumption in transport by 2030. At the local level, municipalities have developed their SUMPs to encourage a shift towards sustainable travel and improve co-ordination between land use and transport planning.

However, there have been many constraints in the implementation of sustainable transport policies at the national and local levels. These include the coupling of car use with economic growth and a general failure to curtail car use. Current Lithuanian urban and transport planning practices remain car-oriented, and the mode share of private cars continues to grow. Policy reform is essential to reduce the negative externalities associated with suboptimal car use. The following sections discuss different policy options for advancing the sustainable mobility agenda in Lithuania.

Lithuania faces a number of pressing urban development challenges. Population density in urban areas has decreased over the past two decades (Figure 4.5). On the one hand, the lack of consistent urban planning policy and weak land-use regulations resulted in extensive sprawl of urban areas, with residential development mainly taking place on the outskirts of major cities. Vilnius, for instance, has one of the lowest population densities among large Lithuanian cities with 1 400 inhabitants/km2. The city centre is far from compact, which lengthens travel times and creates a need for a network of wider streets, while reducing opportunities to get around on foot or by bicycle. Reducing low-density urban sprawl is a key focus of the new national comprehensive spatial plan.

On the other hand, urban sprawl and low-density development have been shaped by transport policies that have traditionally focused on accommodating traffic growth by providing additional road capacity and facilitating travel by car. This approach has exacerbated car dependency and created a vicious circle of car-centred planning that encourages dispersed patterns of development, and vice versa. What’s more, congestion and the excessive time and money spent by certain groups on travel can significantly reduce disposable incomes, amplify inequalities, and damage health and the environment (OECD, 2019).

In recent years, Lithuania has made progress in improving the country’s urban and transport planning processes. The Law on Municipal Infrastructure Development, which entered into force on 1 January 2021, establishes a development fee for municipal infrastructure imposed on beneficiaries of new developments. Previously, there were no rules or financial incentives that required developers within or outside urban areas to provide public transport links. Municipalities had to assume all infrastructure costs, while resulting tax revenues accrued mainly to the central government. Under the new law, municipalities are obliged to make their infrastructure plans by 2023 and identify priority and non-priority areas that will encourage construction. Until then, the entire territory of the municipality will be considered non-priority. Private developers will have to contribute financially to necessary improvements in transport infrastructure.

The Comprehensive Plan for the Territory of Lithuania (2018) foresees the establishment of additional financial instruments that encourage local planners to increase population density in built-up areas. Additional compactness criteria are laid out in the Spatial Planning Standards approved by an order of the Minister of Environment. The recommended maximum distance from the dense built-up area of a ​​large city to the newly formed residential area is 15 km; the minimum is 3 km. The recommended population density of residential districts is being formulated.

At the same time, since SUMPs must consider general master plans, they have been a step towards better co-ordination between urban and transport planning. However, in the vast majority of cities, land-use and transport planning remain the responsibility of separate authorities with limited or no co-ordination between them. This means that transport and spatial plans still function separately. As a result, many development projects continue being car-centric. They are frequently located on the periphery, far from transport links or with poor access to services, thereby exacerbating car use and associated environmental impacts.

Spatial planning should be based on an integrated approach to sustainable urban and transport policy. Co-ordination of urban transport and land use would help reduce infrastructure costs, limit urban sprawl and improve environmental performance. Both transport and land use should aim towards “the ease of people’s access to goods, services and activities” (Litman, 2020). Improving access through better linkages between the transport system and urban development has potential to avoid unnecessary movements by private vehicles and shift private trips to more sustainable transport modes.

To foster compact development, land-use planning should, first, aim at urban densification. Second, it should prioritise locations with good public transport networks when locating new residential and/or office developments (OECD, 2018). This will improve the efficiency of public transport and help reduce car dependency. All new development should promote compact settlement and have easy access to transport links, as well as safe walking and cycling routes. Accessibility indicators could help identify locations suitable for new developments. One of the best-known examples is the Public Transport Accessibility Level (PTAL) Indicator used by Transport for London. PTAL ratings reflect the proximity of a location to a public transport stop. PTAL is used across London to provide clear guidance on appropriate ranges of density for future development: areas with better public transport access are encouraged to be developed at a higher density level (ITF, 2019).

Over the past decade, national investment in transport infrastructure – both for rail and roads – declined from a peak of 2% of gross domestic product to less than 1% (Figure 4.6). During that period, the government allocated annually about EUR 150 million to cities and EUR 350 million for road development and maintenance. Lithuania relies on support from the EU Structural Funds and Cohesion Fund for investment in transport infrastructure. Investment is focused on international projects such as Rail Baltica and Via Baltica, with the aim to improve links between the Baltic states and central, western and northern Europe. The 2021-26 New Generation Lithuania recovery plan includes support for shifting to a low-carbon transport system. The main priorities of the plan are a gradual shift away from polluting urban and regional public transport and development of alternative fuelling and charging infrastructure. The plan’s implementation by 2026 will require an estimated EUR 320 million in investment.

The amount of EU funds allocated to rail and road infrastructure projects is of a similar magnitude. Investment in the railway sector, coming both from the state budget and the operational income of Lithuanian Railways, is expected to increase significantly in 2021-23. The main priorities for investment are modernisation of railway infrastructure to reduce travel times, improved safety and increased capacity for freight operations. To date, however, the state budget funding allocated to road infrastructure projects has been dominant. Lithuania still has a very high percentage of gravel roads: 27% of state roads and 62% of local roads. Thus, much of this investment is directed at upgrading gravel roads, especially in the countryside where poor road infrastructure has a negative impact on road safety and limits possibilities for residents to choose other (non-cars) environmentally friendly vehicles.

To avoid “locking in” an emission-intensive development pathway and exacerbating car dependency, Lithuania needs to avoid scaling up investment in new road transport infrastructure. Instead, it needs to ensure that investment in public transport and sustainable modes remains a priority. Evidence suggests that accommodating traffic growth through building additional roads leads to increased traffic volumes, aggravating congestion, pollution and GHG emissions (ITF, 2016; WSP, 2018). Conversely, investments in more sustainable transport solutions can deliver environmental, social and economic benefits beyond GHG reductions. This means limiting road investment to necessary construction and maintenance based on cost-benefit analysis, while prioritising public transport to achieve inter-regional connectivity. Given that passenger levels in public transport are increasing, the rail and bus network should be viewed as valuable national assets. A high-quality bus network and innovative solutions such as a stronger reliance on ride-sharing in sparsely populated areas could help increase accessibility and reduce private car use responsible for congestion and declining environmental quality.

Improving sustainable infrastructure in urban areas is also an essential ingredient of curbing carbon emissions from transport. To date, municipalities are responsible for investment in urban public transport and infrastructure for non-motorised modes. However, municipalities have few own tax revenues and rely heavily on transfers from the central government to cover spending responsibilities in sustainable transport, which are often limited. EU Structural Funds are also used to support development and implementation of SUMPs. Between 2014 and 2020, EUR 1.1 million was allocated for the preparation of sustainable mobility plans and EUR 18.8 million was allocated for implementation of sustainable mobility measures identified in the plans. Even with the financial backing from EU Structural Funds, implementation of actions identified in SUMPs remains problematic. To advance necessary improvements in climate impact and air quality, it is highly recommended to channel available national funding towards transport projects that promote low-carbon modes, such as walking and cycling. Additionally, municipalities should consider earmarking revenues from parking fees towards improvement in cycling and walking conditions, which could be an important source of local funding.

In transport, Lithuania uses two main support schemes for biofuels: blending mandates (with quotas) for biodiesel and bioethanol, and exemptions from excise and environmental pollution tax. The new Law on Alternative Fuels has provisions for support of biofuels, biomethane and hydrogen. The law sets a deadline of 2030 to reach a 15% share of RES in transport’s final energy consumption. The 2020 target of 10% in RES was missed by approximately five percentage points (Szuppinger and Menadue, 2020). The aim is to develop a market for advanced biofuels, electrify the railways and prepare infrastructure for the electrification of light vehicles. Lithuania is developing the concept of biomethane use in the transport sector and its implementing measures. It pays particular attention to the transformation of the freight transport sector (Section 4.6.8). The government plans to expand the network of natural gas filling points and promote the purchase of vehicles powered by biomethane and green hydrogen. These alternative fuels are expected to account for at least 5% of final energy consumption in the transport sector.

At the same time, Lithuania plans to increase the biofuel blending obligation for fuel suppliers to 16.8% in 2030, with a sub-target of 3.5% for advanced biofuel, through a certificate system for renewable transport fuels. According to the Law on Alternative Fuels, all public transport and passenger vehicles purchased through public procurement should run on alternative fuels by 2030. Municipalities will be required to create LEZs in the main cities (Section 4.6.1). This should encourage a switch to clean vehicles, biking and walking, thus improving air quality.

The government plans to establish a Sustainable Mobility Fund under the law to finance implementation of the alternative fuels policy. The fund will need to raise significant revenues. Apart from EU funding, the government will need to examine options for raising fuel, excise and road usage taxes, and phasing out exemptions to these taxes.

Increasing uptake of EVs is one of the pillars of Lithuania’s strategy to curb GHG emissions from transport and meet the 2030 emissions reduction target for the non-ETS sectors. Lithuania has set ambitious targets, aiming to reach more than 46 000 EVs in circulation already by 2025, followed by a fivefold increase by 2030.

To date, Lithuania is lagging behind in terms of percentage of the total stock of EVs when compared to top performing countries such as Norway. In 2019, only 3 000 EVs were registered in Lithuania. This represents less than 2% of the total fleet (Government of Lithuania, 2019). In recent years, however, the number of EVs has been increasing: around 2 000 new EVs registered in 2018, up 119% over 2017. Lithuania plans for EVs to account for 10% of passenger cars (registered and reregistered) in 2025 and 20% in 2030.

Until 2020, Lithuania had few non-fiscal incentives for choosing an EV. These were access to dedicated public transport lanes in Vilnius, reduction of parking fees and exemption from the entry toll in the town of Neringa municipality. In 2020, the Climate Change Programme introduced additional incentives for purchasing low-emission vehicles (Table 4.2). In the long term, decisions on granting subsidies and setting incentives for EVs should be aligned with the overall strategy for the sector and potential impacts carefully assessed. For instance, allowing EVs to use bus-reserved lanes in Norway increased congestion for buses (Lindberg and Fridstrøm, 2015). Thus, while promoting a shift towards an electric fleet, the Norwegian policy impeded higher use of public transport. As the number of EVs increases, it will be important for Lithuania to review access to dedicated bus lanes.

Similarly, free public parking for EVs can be effective in accelerating the electrification of the private fleet. However, the opportunity costs of urban road space are high. Less space-intensive modes should be a priority. Promotion of EVs boosts car ownership and use, with an associated increase of congestion. Moreover, non-exhaust particulate emissions from tyre wear, brake wear, road surface wear and resuspension of road dust are high with EVs.

Availability of vehicles and charging infrastructure, limited choice of models, range anxiety and low levels of consumer awareness have all considerably slowed down the uptake of EVs. These trends, however, have been changing. For instance, the choice of models has grown significantly.2 This has likely played a role in the recent growth in uptake levels in Lithuania and in Europe in general (IEA, 2020).

Lithuania does not yet have a dense enough network of publicly accessible recharging points: the spatial distribution of recharging points does not cover the needs of vehicles in terms of distance requirements. To address this, it is developing EV charging infrastructure on the main trans-European road network, approximately every 50 km on national highways. The biggest problem remains the installation of EV charging infrastructure in residential areas of major cities and near commercially unattractive places on state roads. Therefore, the government is considering subsidies for the purchase/installation of EV charging equipment in such locations.

About 130 electric vehicle charging stations operate in the capital (more than half of which were established through private sector initiatives). In 2020, given the growing number of EVs and the need for charging access, Vilnius installed another 59 public EV charging stations in accordance with the installation site plan approved by the City Council. The Law on Alternative Fuels gives municipalities until 2022 to prepare plans to develop EV charging infrastructure by 2030. Many local governments have already done so in their SUMPs. By the summer of 2021, another 100 new EV charging stations are planned in Lithuanian municipalities.

Another reason for lower uptake, compared to other countries, is related to the taxation regime. Until July 2020, Lithuania was one of few countries in the European Union that did not levy a registration or an ownership tax for non-commercial vehicles. The introduction of a motor registration tax will, to a limited extent, bridge the price difference between ICE vehicles and EVs. However, taxation levels on the sale of new ICE vehicles remain below that applied in leading countries in terms of EV penetration (Chapter 3). Evidence suggests that EV take-up is higher in countries such as the Netherlands and Norway where taxation for high-emission cars is significantly higher than for low-emission cars. Tax differences are not as substantial in countries with lower EV take-ups, such as Germany and the United Kingdom. Norway has been successful at increasing the stock of EVs largely due to its policy of equalising the difference in purchase price (or lifecycle cost) between battery EVs and ICE vehicles (Lindberg and Fridstrøm, 2015; IEA, 2020).

To advance the uptake of EVs, the most successful countries, such as Norway and the Netherlands, have used LEZs and congestion charging to complement subsidies. This is done in tandem with efficient taxation regime for ICE vehicles. In Lithuania, there is substantial potential to manage travel demand via fiscal and non-fiscal instruments (i.e. integration of land use and transport planning), while encouraging a shift towards low-carbon modes.

Lithuania plans to continue financial support for purchase of EVs, with additional support for the purchase and installation of EV charging stations (with a focus on unattractive locations near national roads and in cities). However, the cost to the state of maintaining the level of EV support could grow significantly. Reduced fuel excise receipts could drain the state’s finances in the medium term. Higher taxes for polluting vehicles and lower taxes for clean vehicles (i.e. a bonus-malus system) can help reduce the need to subsidise EVs.

In the long term, the potential of electrification may lead to a fall in revenues from fuel excise and vehicle taxes. Consequently, Lithuania should consider a comprehensive transport tax reform to protect revenues. This means finding the right mix of taxing distances driven, vehicles and fuels (Chapter 3). In particular, shifting to a country-wide electronic or a global positioning system of charging distances by the kilometre can be a promising long-term strategy to collect stable revenues (van Dender, 2019).

For many suburban and rural households, the car remains the only means to access opportunities. Therefore, Lithuania should consider the potential social costs of an EV promotion strategy. The benefits of EV financial support are regressive in nature as they tend to benefit the wealthier in society. To ensure equitable transition to low-emission vehicles, special rebates for low-income, car-dependent households could be considered as part of the strategy.

The 2021 Law on Alternative Fuels requires municipal councils to establish LEZs in urban areas by 2023. This should be done with appropriate consideration of SUMPs and data on state environmental air monitoring and/or municipal environmental air monitoring. As a result, some ICE vehicles will likely be dropped from the fleet and/or replaced with zero-emission vehicles. This is a welcome development.

LEZs are usually established to reduce the use of older, more polluting vehicles within problematic areas, which has been one of the most pressing issues across Lithuania. LEZs also have potential to accelerate the uptake of EVs. More than 250 cities in the European Union restrict access for the most polluting passenger cars (Transport & Environment, 2019). In some cities, LEZs focus only on restricting access for heavy-duty and delivery vehicles. Other cities also include restrictions for passenger cars and motorcycles (e.g. Berlin and Milan).

LEZs can play an important role in vehicle retrofit, emission reduction and air quality improvement, yet they do not affect the distances people travel and/or the number of trips in the long term. If congestion becomes a major concern, road pricing should be considered as the most effective way to relieve traffic pressure. Experience in Milan shows that an ECOPASS pollution charge for the city’s central area initially reduced traffic levels. However, the long-term effects were less beneficial in tackling congestion. As more vehicles complied with standards and were able to gain free entrance, traffic reductions gradually declined. Consequently, authorities made a transition towards a scheme that includes both banning most polluting vehicles from the inner ring and a congestion charge (ITF, 2017).

Similarly, in London, a LEZ and a congestion charge aim to incentivise a shift towards low-emission vehicles and relieve traffic pressure (Box 4.1). The city’s LEZ policy has played an important role in vehicle retrofit, emissions reduction and air quality improvement. According to some estimates, five years of the London LEZ led to an additional 20% drop in pre-Euro 3 rigid vehicles3 (Ellison, Greaves and Hensher, 2014). Following implementation of the Ultra-Low-Emission Zone (ULEZ), roadside NO2 has dropped 44% in central London, with 44 100 fewer polluting cars in the zone daily (GLA, 2020).

The design of LEZs is critical for their effectiveness. First, the size of the LEZ determines which residents will be directly impacted and what share of the vehicle fleet will be concerned (Transport & Environment, 2019). A large proportion of LEZs use the Euro standards that classify vehicles depending on their environmental performance as a basic criterion for granting access to the LEZ or determining the size of the fee. Second, in congested situations, low velocity and high vehicle dynamic range (frequent acceleration and braking) may double the emissions.

Introducing LEZs is often politically challenging. Cities seeking to implement them are likely to encounter opposition. The need for LEZs should be framed around environmental concerns and health benefits from better air quality, while ensuring that residents see tangible benefits of the scheme.

Experience from around the world shows that LEZ policies should be introduced incrementally and gradually made stricter, rather than through a “big-bang” approach (Transport & Environment, 2019). This tends to lead to greater acceptance by the public and local businesses. Over time, cities tend to increase the area covered by the zone, the vehicle standards, the levels of charging and the area(s) from which polluting vehicles (or all vehicles) are banned.

Experience in cities shows that good alternatives to car use in urban areas are needed for a LEZ to be effective. Given that in urban areas a majority of trips are below 10 km, there is considerable potential to promote walking, cycling, new forms of micromobility (e.g. e-scooters) and public transport. This, in turn, will help reduce pollution, congestion, noise and accidents. Thus, LEZs should complement policies promoting a switch to clean alternatives, such as walking and cycling. They should also complement electrification of all modes, including public transport, taxis, shared and private vehicles, and delivery vans.

Potential distributional impacts should be carefully assessed before implementation. Promoting a shift to public transport, walking and cycling should always be the first option. However, some households depend on cars to reach jobs (e.g. shift workers) and cannot afford to purchase a clean vehicle. Thus, exemptions and financial support schemes should be targeted at low-income and car-dependent households that absolutely need to use their vehicles in cities. The LEZ in Greater Paris, for example, provides such additional support to lower-income households and people with disabilities (Transport & Environment, 2019). Exemptions, however, should be carefully monitored and follow a strict timeline. Otherwise, there is a risk of having too many exemptions and spending public budgets on subsidising unjustified car use.

Lithuanian cities need to address both availability and pricing of parking. Policies encouraging oversupply of free parking often result in environmental problems and welfare losses (Russo, Ommeren and Dimitropoulos, 2019). In urban areas across Lithuania not all car users have to pay for parking at their origin and destination. This is either because they can park for free on the road or because their employer or shop offers them free parking off-street.

All cities in Lithuania require developers to provide minimum numbers of parking spaces in new developments. Regulations that set minimum requirements for the provision of parking both encourage an oversupply of parking and bundle the cost of unnecessary new parking with new housing. Minimum parking space regulations can also lead to excessive land use (Brueckner and Franco, 2017) and drive up the cost of housing since they add costs for developers (Litman, 2016), all while incentivising car use.

Eliminating minimum rate requirements is critically important. This approach is required at both the origin (place of residence) and destination (work, shops, etc.). Reducing parking requirements decreases vehicle ownership and use, and allows more compact development. This, in turn, reduces traffic problems and sprawl-related costs (ITF, 2021). Evidence suggests that maximum requirements could be particularly useful in downtown areas or in areas where on-street parking is scarce and expensive.

Ensuring that regulations and building codes require developers to provide an electrical charging point can help facilitate the uptake of EVs. Provision of EV charging points is already mandated by the 2018 EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive.4 The directive requires that developers install appropriate pre-wiring for a charging point in each parking space in all new and thoroughly renovated residential buildings with more than ten parking spaces. In Lithuania, building codes provide for the developer to create at least one charging access for EVs in residential and non-residential buildings with more than ten parking spaces. This may not be sufficient. The spatial development strategy for Greater London, for example, stipulates that all developments must ensure that one in five spaces provide an electrical charging point (London Plan, 2016).

The cost of parking in urban areas can determine whether residents choose to drive to a particular destination. Municipalities in Lithuania can set different prices for on-street public parking in various segments of the urban area. Some Lithuanian cities (notably Vilnius and Klaipėda) apply reasonably high parking charges. Yet the areas where parking pricing applies are often limited to city centres. Revenues from on-street parking accrue directly to the general budget, with no earmarking towards transport or urban realm improvements. In many other cities worldwide, in contrast, revenue from increased parking prices is directed towards improving the attractiveness of other transport modes.

Under-pricing of parking results in inefficient use of space and excessive parking demand. Car users tend to spend more time cruising, which often results in more congestion in urban areas (Shoup, 2005a). In this context, expanding the area of priced parking and increasing parking fees is warranted. Ideally, parking tariffs should vary according to the availability of public transport, with higher prices and shorter maximum stays in well-served areas. Revenues should (at least partly) be used to improve and promote alternatives. In this way, linkage can be expected to increase public support for the policy reforms and contribute to modal shift.

Given fluctuations in demand, a dynamic parking pricing system could be the most efficient, where tariffs vary over space and time, using information on occupancy in surrounding areas. Efficient parking tariffs prevent capacity saturation and cruising, while ensuring high occupancy rates. Several cities, including San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, DC, have initiated pilot projects that adjust curb-side parking prices to occupation in real time and by location. SFPark in San Francisco is a pioneering example of such a pricing scheme, which helped reduce distance travelled by car (Pierce and Shoup, 2013; SFMTA, 2014).

Lithuanian cities should avoid discounts for long-term parking. To be considered effective, daily rates should be at least 6 times higher than hourly rates, and monthly rates at least 20 times higher than daily rates (TDM Encyclopaedia, 2019). Lithuania should also consider compensating vulnerable and car-dependent groups through targeted complementary measures.

Free or cheap parking at a workplace also needs to be addressed because free parking from employers is an implicit incentive for commuting by car (Franco, 2020). In one estimate, the supply of free parking to employees implies a subsidy equal to around 30% of the private costs of a car trip (Russo, van Ommeren and Dimitropoulos, 2019).

In Lithuania, the impact of workplace parking on car use depends on whether an employer assigns parking space to a specific employee or opens it for use by all employees. In the former case, such benefits are treated as taxable employment income. Otherwise, the benefits are not taxable (Chapter 3). In these cases, Lithuania should eliminate such exemptions of employer-paid parking from employees’ taxable income. Furthermore, it should apply the benefit in-kind tax to the provision of all spaces, regardless of whether they are used by a specific employee.

There are several ways to address workplace parking and thereby discourage commuting by car. Municipalities could increase parking charges and reduce the number of parking spaces, while reserving some for car sharers. Employers could also offer employees a cash-value in lieu of a parking space, known as a “parking cash-out”. Parking cash-outs are common in California, where law requires many employers to offer commuters cash in lieu of any parking subsidy. They have proven effective in reducing the number of employees who drive solo to work, as well as of increasing the number of car poolers and of those who walk or bike to work. In this way, they contribute to reducing vehicle-kilometre travelled for commuting and related CO2 emissions (Shoup, 2005b; Franco, 2020).

To minimise adverse tax impacts, employers can offer tax-exempt public transport passes or vanpool benefits. Governments should also make emerging transport services with potential to reduce environmental impacts and congestion – such as bike sharing – eligible for commuter benefits.

Lithuanian cities through their SUMPs are committed to road space reallocation measures, including proposals for bus, cycling and walking priority systems and car traffic restrictions in urban streets. Micromobility (e-scooters, electric bikes and pedal bikes, whether docked or dockless) presents an additional opportunity. It has the potential to address congestion, emissions and air quality, while better connecting people to public transport.

The main responsibility for achieving higher shares for sustainable modes lies with municipalities. In particular, provision of cycling infrastructure and improvements to the urban realm falls under the responsibility of local governments. However, cities often have limited budgets. There is also a mismatch between developed strategies, in particular SUMPs, and following through with implementation. Similar observations can be made in relation to policies favouring pedestrians.

Redistributing road space to non-car modes can represent a technically challenging and politically sensitive option. Public concerns tend to focus on predictions of traffic chaos and adverse economic impacts. Yet a growing body of evidence suggests that well-planned measures aiming at reducing road space for private cars do not necessarily result in additional traffic. On the contrary, there is increasing understanding of “disappearing traffic” as a result of road space reallocation and reductions in road capacity (Cairns et al., 2002; Tennøy and Hagen, 2020). Reallocation schemes offer an opportunity to improve public space and liveability by improving conditions for pedestrians, cyclists or public transport users. This generally benefits the retail sector, as well-planned improvements to public spaces can increase footfall and retail sales (ITF, 2021).

Examples from European cities confirm the theoretical findings. In Oslo, for instance, a reduction in capacity on three main roadways since 2016 did not result in either severe delays or congestion. Car use on commutes fell from 21% to 16%, but the quality of commuters’ experience (for all modes) remained high (Tennøy and Hagen, 2020). The city of Copenhagen reported that the total number of people travelling across a main thoroughfare bridge increased following two measures. First, space for private motor vehicles was reduced. Second, space designated for walking, cycling and public transport on the bridge was increased (City of Copenhagen, 2017). The example of Paris shows that a continuous effort to reallocate road space backed by investment could result in a significant mode shift and overall improved liveability (ITF, 2021).

Re-prioritisation of road space requires significant investment, timetabled targets and a strong monitoring regime. It also needs a robust institutional structure to support it and oversee implementation. All projects should have specific annual targets attached to detailed monitoring and enforcement programmes to ensure their achievement. In this context, government support will be essential in improving conditions for non-motorised modes. Indeed, the NCCMA calls for constructing at least 600 km of dedicated bike lanes by 2030.

The logistics sector plays a vital role in achieving the targets set out in the National Energy and Climate Action Plan. Heavy-duty vehicles accounted for 27% of the total transport energy consumption in 2018. GHG emissions from road freight have been rapidly increasing, and carbon contributions from this transport sub-sector are too large to ignore.

Lithuania aims to replace the time-based road use charge (Eurovignette) for the use of main roads with an e-tolling distance-based system by 2023 (Chapter 3). This would be an opportunity to substantially increase revenues from road use charges and reduce losses due to cross-border fuel tourism. The e-tolling system is projected to collect an additional EUR 50-70 million, with the funds used to develop and maintain state roads.

Lithuania is also planning to create infrastructure to improve efficiency of operations and multi-modality. To that end, it will build intermodal terminals and improve connections between different modes to encourage operators to use multi-modal transport instead of transporting units just by road. By 2030, the aim is to shift 5% of freight to combined transport. This is projected to reduce GHG emissions by 19% compared to moving freight only by road (Government of Lithuania, 2014).

Additionally, to improve efficiency of rail operations and reduce GHG emissions, Lithuania is planning to electrify its rail network. Today, the share of electrified railways is only 8%, making it one of the lowest in the European Union. By 2030, Lithuania plans to electrify 45% of railways infrastructure. It is also working to implement the Rail Baltica project to create a new high-speed railway line for freight transport. With Rail Baltica in place, Lithuania could transport an estimated 70% of cargo on railways. By 2050, it wants to use rail or inland waterways to transport at least half of all goods travelling more than 300 km.

The government is exploring alternative fuel types such as biofuels, hydrogen, CNG and LNG as economically and environmentally friendly alternatives to diesel. It is planning a 40% subsidy for purchase of commercial vehicles powered by these fuels, as well as for construction of alternative fuel stations. The government also intends to require companies to use at least 10% of renewable energy sources in their final fuel consumption.

While CNG and LNG are promoted for their lower carbon content, they are still fossil fuels, with a potential for significant methane leakage. GHG emissions of LNG trucks are systematically underestimated in the European CO2 regulations for trucks (Mottschall, Kasten and Rodríguez, 2020). Certification procedure neglects methane and NOx emissions, which means they fail to consider a large portion of tank-to-wheel emissions. The same authors suggest the technology can lock countries on a pathway incompatible with climate-neutrality goals. Therefore, the rationale behind the regulatory and fiscal incentives for LNG trucks should be revisited. In the long run, the potential of freight electrification, if realised, could make significantly higher contributions to the low-carbon transition.

Given limited financial resources, road freight decarbonisation also requires implementing low-cost easy-to-adopt elements that have already shown they can quickly reduce emissions in the sector (ITF, 2018b). Fuel consumption could be reduced due to changes in driving and intelligent transportation system technologies. This includes vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems that can be used to set up semi-automated vehicle columns (truck platooning). Since 2010, drivers in Lithuania have already been introduced to the basics of eco-driving through voluntary training programmes. A financial incentive for eco-driving measures is planned in 2021-30 to ensure that as many drivers as possible acquire eco-driving knowledge and skills. Additional measures, such as standardisation and sharing of logistics data, could accelerate collaboration between organisations. Meanwhile, consolidation centres could reduce freight traffic circulating within a target area by fostering consolidation of cargo at a terminal (ITF, 2018b). Further institutional support to make these low-cost elements mandatory in freight is highly warranted.


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← 1. The International Transport Forum refers to pedestrians, cyclists, riders of mopeds and motorbikes as vulnerable users.

← 2. There were seven new EVs on the European market in 2018, a number that will rise to 45 in 2021.

← 3. Rigid vehicles are vehicles with unlimited gross vehicle mass and tow trailers up to 9 tonnes without axle limitation. Rigid vehicles may include buses, trucks or articulated buses with more than two axles.

← 4. The directive requires that all new and thoroughly renovated residential buildings with more than ten parking spaces be equipped with appropriate pre-wiring for a charging point to be installed in each space.

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