Much has been written in the press about the postponement once again of Romania’s and Bulgaria’s accession to the Schengen area following the vote in the EU’s Justice and Home Affairs Council on 8 December 2022. However, one area which has received little attention has been the negative environmental impact of continued border controls, due to CO2 emissions by vehicles waiting to cross the frontier and being processed whose engines are left running. KPMG in Romania has carried out an analysis to quantify what this impact is, and its detrimental effects on the EU’s environmental objectives.
The research involved a calculation of the carbon emissions over a one year period by road vehicles waiting to cross the frontiers between Romania and Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary and Bulgaria and Greece (Border Carbon Emissions). The data was based on the number of vehicles crossing, the types of vehicle and the average waiting period. To collect the primary data, KPMG specialists sent requests for information to relevant public institutions in Romania, Bulgaria and Greece as well as private organizations (e.g. the General Inspectorate of the Romanian Border Police, the Border Police of Bulgaria, the Border Police of Greece, the National Union of Road Hauliers of Romania, the National Association of Travel Agencies in Romania, the Romanian Automotive Register, the National Road Infrastructure Administration Company of Romania etc.). The research is based on the data and information obtained following these enquiries and received by 17 March 2023, as well as on the information retrieved from reputable publicly available sources. By covering a full year, the publication aimed to take into account seasonal variations in waiting times.
It was important first to break down the type of vehicles crossing into appropriate categories. So the research considered emissions due to Heavy Duty Vehicles (HDVs), Light Duty Vehicles (LDVs), Large Passenger Buses, Minibuses and Passenger Cars (including all types from small cars to SUVs). Then an estimate of waiting times was made, based primarily on information provided by the National Union of Road Hauliers of Romania (UNTRR) from enquiries and interviews with road transport operators and logistics companies as well as KPMG analysis. Some information was also gleaned from real time statistics compiled by the General Inspectorate of the Romanian Border Police, which are published on the institution’s website, although no historical information is provided in this case.
Since no reliable information is available as to what proportion of the waiting time is spent with engine running, a conservative estimate was made. So for trucks (HDVs and LGVs), the average waiting time with engine running was estimated at 195 minutes, based on an analysis of information published by UNTRR. For buses (both large buses and minibuses) the average waiting time depending on seasonality ranges between 30 and 90 minutes and hence an average of 60 minutes with engine running per crossing was estimated. Passenger cars have the lowest waiting times (on average between 10 and 30 minutes) and so the average time with engine running was estimated at 20 minutes. Then the emissions per vehicle had to be estimated. Specific data for Romania and Bulgaria was not available so the figures published in the “Idling Action Research – Review of Emissions Data” study prepared by Transport Research Lab for the City of London in 2020 were used. These may be considered quite conservative because the average vehicle age is higher in Romania and Bulgaria than in the UK. Finally, a breakdown into types of fuel used (petrol or diesel) had to be estimated, based on in information available on the data.gov.ro website concerning the structure of the national vehicle fleet in Romania as at 31 December 2021 (the latest year available).
The conclusions of the research were that it can be estimated that over 46 thousand tonnes of CO2 per year are emitted as a result of the postponement of Romania’s and Bulgaria’s admission to Schengen. This translates into a need for over 311 thousand mature trees to sequester the associated border waiting carbon emissions, and is equivalent to over 56 million kwh of coal based electricity. Moreover, considering that the European Parliament gave the green light for Romania and Bulgaria’s admission to Schengen in 2011 (based on fulfillment of the technical conditions), the years of delays have meant over 500 thousand tonnes of CO2 emissions, or the equivalent of over 600 GWh of electricity produced from coal sources.
Inevitably, by its nature this research relied a lot on educated estimates. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the delay to Romania’s and Bulgaria’s Schengen admission is having negative environmental effects and is making it more difficult for the EU to achieve its emissions reduction goals. The adverse economic consequences, not only on Romania and Bulgaria but also on the EU as a whole have been well documented. The KPMG in Romania research has demonstrated that the effect on the planet should also not be neglected.