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Vice President of the European Commission
Using transport to make the most of Europe’s cities
4 December 2013
Ladies and gentlemen
Europe is home to some of the world’s most successful and attractive cities.
Eight of the top 20 most visited cities are European, measured by how much international visitors spend. In itself, that is a powerful catalyst for developing urban culture. And it is something of which we can be proud.
Recently I spoke at the EU-China Urban Partnership in Beijing – which proved to be a meeting place for about 900 European and Chinese businesses. I know that Polis also actively participated. There are definitely lots of market opportunities for EU companies in rapidly urbanizing China.
Cities are our main engines of economic growth. Cities are also where many of transport’s negative impacts are strongest.
It’s an old and familiar story: where congestion holds back the smooth movement of people and goods. We are still battling congestion today, especially in cities – which hampers economic growth and the creation of jobs.
Congestion creates a hefty bill. Every year, it costs us nearly €100 billion, or 1% of the EU's GDP. And it raises a number of environmental issues, given that one quarter of EU transport emissions comes from urban areas.
One important lesson we have learned is that successful, sustainable and beautiful cities which attract millions of visitors do not happen by themselves.
If you plan for attractive, clean, efficient and socially integrated cities, then that is what you get.
But if you don’t plan, the risk is that the opposite can happen – very easily.
Smoke-filled gridlocks, chaotic urban jungles. There are plenty of examples of that already in the world. We certainly don’t need Europe to add itself to the list.
If we are to think and plan for our cities’ future, it must be long-term thinking for sustainable development. This is not only for our citizens and economies - but also because cities have a far wider environmental and geo-political impact.
The choices that Europe makes now regarding urban mobility will have a huge impact on the worldwide use of resources – particularly oil – as well as greenhouse gas emissions.
Our objective is to halve the use of conventionally-fuelled cars in urban areas by 2030 and phase them out by 2050. City logistics should be essentially CO2-free in major urban centres by 2030.
This is why I have proposed that Member States build minimum infrastructure for clean fuels such as electricity, hydrogen and natural gas – to go hand-in-hand with common EU standards for the equipment needed. We need to be ambitious to overcome the low level of consumer acceptance and reap the benefits of new markets.
In a few of weeks, we will be presenting the Commission's new communication on urban mobility – something that will be of great interest to all of you. We will support EU countries to develop and implement sustainable urban mobility plans that will help cities offer their citizens integrated and sustainable transport options. The plans should also promote cleaner local transport, and particularly public transport: a highly efficient way of using road space.
Public transport helps to cut traffic congestion and pollution.
We need more of it - not less. Public transport has to offer a high-quality service, and that means punctuality, comfort and reliability.
We are also looking closely at intelligent transport systems in the urban context, with the positive knock-on effect of improving road safety. Other areas where we are working include city logistics, access restrictions and green zones.
We will be working even harder on research and innovation. Europe already has an excellent research and technology base for technologies and services that cities can apply, and citizens can use.
In 2014, the EU’s new seven-year funding programme for research and innovation – Horizon 2020 - will start. It is the largest EU research programme yet and one of the biggest publicly funded worldwide
Under Horizon 2020, considerable EU support will be provided to catalyse research and innovation for better and urban mobility – in particular through Civitas 2020, the Smart Cities and Communities Partnership and the European Clean Vehicles Initiative.
A preliminary work programme, covering the years 2014 and 2015, has recently been published by the Commission and the first calls for project proposals will open in the coming days. For Civitas 2020 alone a budget of over 100 million € is earmarked for the first two years of Horizon 2020.
But technology on its own is not enough. Only a small part of making a city "smart" is a technical challenge. It is mostly a multi-disciplinary task of solving "soft" issues. That is why increased cooperation is the key to future success, as we design and adapt cities into smart, intelligent and sustainable environments.
Innovation has to be deployed on the ground. We can help to make ensure that happens by identifying and removing barriers that prevent full-scale implementation of innovative technologies.
It is one of the main aims of our Smart Cities initiative.
This is not an EU funding programme, but a partnership that brings together people, business and organisations to integrate different aspects of innovative technology across the transport, energy and ICT sectors.
If we can connect and combine these better, we can vastly improve the urban environment, by using diverse technologies to increase the efficiency of how a modern city functions.
These EU initiatives and activities I have outlined to you will help to lay the foundations today to build Europe’s smarter and cleaner cities of tomorrow.
They will create significant opportunities for innovative European businesses in the global marketplace. They will also make our cities more attractive places to live and help Europe to meet the ambitious goals of its wider climate agenda.
Ladies and gentlemen: urbanisation is a definite growing trend, in Europe and throughout the world.
If Europe is remain home to some of the world’s most successful and attractive cities – as I mentioned earlier – we should plan and act now so that our cities can cope with the challenges and demands that this trend will inevitably bring.
Transport is "part and parcel" of the urban environment. It’s why we have designed European transport policy to play a key part in the longer-term thinking for our cities, so they will stay clean, smart, sustainable and attractive.
Thank you for your attention.