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Vice President of the European Commission
Transport’s potential in smart cities
London, City Climate Leadership Awards
5 September 2013
Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for inviting me to speak to you today. I am pleased to be attending the first of what I am sure will be important annual events. Awards to recognise leadership in climate action help to showcase urban success stories and to inspire other cities to take similar steps in the same direction.
Cities need to be globally competitive, while helping to meet the climate change targets and reduce air pollution at a time when public funding is limited.
They are also where many of transport’s negative impacts are strongest. This is why urban transport lies at the heart of the European Commission’s plans for sustainable smart growth and the transition to a resource-efficient economy.
Sharing knowledge and experience is extremely important.
EU-supported projects show that it really is possible to make the transition to sustainable urban mobility. Take the CIVITAS programme, which promotes city initiatives for low-emission vehicles, improved safety and reduced congestion.
Just a few among the hundreds of its success stories would be the public transport ticketing system in Estonia’s capital Tallinn; a 100% clean bus fleet in the French city of Toulouse; a new traffic control system in Bologna in Italy.
Many of today’s urban problems, of course, are not new.
London, for example, is celebrating 150 years of underground transportation this year. In 1863, the world’s first underground train pulled out of Paddington Station to make a passenger journey – just 3.5 miles – and into the record books.
It’s also interesting to see that Siemens’ connections with the London Underground go back a very long way. In 1891 Siemens Brothers were commissioned to deliver two electric locomotives. Before that, the trains were steam-powered, which led to pollution and breathing problems.
The London Underground is now the fourth largest metro system in the world.
But let us recall why it was built.
Back then, roads were a chaotic mix of horse-drawn carriages and cabs fighting for space with pedestrians. In 1800, London's population was one million. Fifty years later, it had jumped to 2.5 million. With no space available above ground, the solution was to dig deep below it.
It’s a familiar story: urban congestion holding back the smooth movement of people and goods. We are still battling congestion today, especially in cities. Each year, it costs nearly €100 billion, or 1% of the EU's GDP. Fluid urban mobility is essential for economic growth and employment.
Congestion also raises a number of environmental issues.
With a quarter of EU transport emissions coming from urban areas, our towns and cities should play a key role in mitigating the effects of climate change. Clean air has - for a long time - been a top priority in EU transport policy.
We will support EU countries to develop and implement sustainable urban mobility plans to promote cleaner local transport, particularly public transport. This is an especially efficient way of using road space. It helps to reduce traffic congestion and pollution – so we need more public transport, not less. It has to offer a high-quality service, and that means punctuality, comfort and reliability.
We are also looking closely at intelligent transport systems, city logistics, access restrictions and green zones, and will continue to help Member States to develop these in cities.
Ladies and gentlemen
Cities are a microcosm of what we can achieve on a wider scale, particularly with large-scale deployment of alternative fuels to help reduce Europe’s dependence on oil.
Clean fuel is still held back by the high cost of vehicles, a low level of consumer acceptance, and lack of recharging and refuelling stations.
This is why we 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.
Several cities, including London, are already investing in recharging infrastructure. Prices of electric cars, buses and bikes – manufactured in Europe - are now coming down, creating new sustainable markets.
Technological innovation will make a big impact. It will help to solve city transport problems with newer, safer vehicles and systems - and help to keep Europe a world leader in manufacturing transport equipment.
We intend to work 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.
By the end of 2013, the EU’s new funding programme for research and innovation – Horizon 2020 - will start. Of its overall budget, the proposed allocation for transport research is € 7.7 billion, which is a 50 % increase on the current budget. Urban transport, logistics, green vehicles and infrastructures are priority areas for funding.
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.
I see increased cooperation as the key to success for the future, to design and adapt cities into smart, intelligent and sustainable environments.
We have to make sure that innovation is deployed on the ground, 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.
A Strategic Implementation Plan should be ready for this in mid-October – and I am very much looking forward to seeing its recommendations.
Ladies and gentlemen
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.
This will create significant opportunities for innovative European businesses in the global marketplace. It will also make our cities more attractive places to live and help Europe to deliver on its wider climate agenda.
It is by working together, sharing ideas and experiences, and by following the example of those highlighted as city climate leaders that we can make all this happen. I wish this new awards scheme every success.
Thank you for your attention.