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Vice President of the European Commission
Opening the Urban Mobility Sub-Forum
Beijing Jiaotong University/Beijing
21 November 2013
Dear Vice-Minister for Transport, Mr Weng Mengyong, Dear President of the Beijing Jiaotong University, Mr Ning Bin, dear Director General of NDRC, Mr Huang Min, Dear Dear Mayors, Dear Colleagues,
As the European Commissioner responsible for transport and mobility it is a great pleasure for me to be here today at the opening of this Urban Mobility Sub-Forum. Cities are and always will be places of exchange: exchange of goods and ideas. The challenge of urban mobility is to maximise the exchanges of goods and ideas – while maintaining the attractiveness of city life.
But cities are where many of transport’s negative impacts are of the greatest concern. 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.
85% of the European GDP is already generated in cities – and cities will be the drivers of economic growth in the EU and China. We must work to ensure they are safe, clean and efficient.
There are many similarities and many differences in urban mobility in China and Europe. Europe’s cities limits are largely fixed; Chinese cities are still expanding. We have low levels of walking and cycling and are working hard to increase them; you have high levels of walking and cycling – but they are falling fast. We have high and stable levels of motorisation; you have low and rapidly rising car ownership and use. You have innovative car ownership management measures (I’m thinking of the number plate auction and lotteries you have in some of the biggest cities); we have innovative car sharing solutions. You have high levels of e-bikes; while they are just taking off in Europe.
Throughout the 28 European Union Member States we have implemented innovation-conducive policies through open, transparent and non-discriminatory trade policies creating a level playing for economic operators regardless of their nationality. China has much to gain from implementing such an approach which stimulates innovation and reduces costs. Both Europe and China have problems with air quality and congestion. With the resulting illness and delays with a huge direct economic impact.
We can gain a lot by working on policy and technological solutions to these problems together.
I’m pleased that EU and Chinese experts have already been working together this year to identify urban mobility policy recommendations for the State Council – that we presented to the Chinese leadership last week. A copy of these recommendations is available for you and will be presented to you briefly today.
In Europe we have some great examples of urban mobility, and some bad ones. A key lesson from our experience is that sustainable mobility does not happen by accident. You get what you plan for. If you plan for attractive, clean, efficient and fair mobility – that is what you get. This is easy to say – but very difficult to do.
Successful urban mobility requires careful attention, expertise, resources and effort over many, many years. If politicians at the national and local level set the right policies – and the city managers deliver – then you can achieve great results. But without consistent, long-term attention and effort – you will get the kind of chaotic, congested and inefficient cities we see in some other countries.
National leaders often neglect urban mobility. To ensure the success of our cities Chinese and European leaders must provide the necessary policy direction, guidelines and resources. Only then can local mayors deliver.
Improving urban mobility also requires a long-term vision – in our European transport policy we have set the objective of ‘phasing out the use of conventionally fuelled cars in cities by 2050’. This will help us achieve our air quality, climate change and energy security objectives.
I look forward to hearing about China’s long term vision and targets for urban mobility. It’s principally the job of city governments to guide urban development according to local needs and circumstances. But city governments can’t do it alone – they need to co- operate – with national government, with the private sector, with research institutions and, importantly, with their citizens.
Mobile technologies are opening new ways for cities and citizens to interact. They offer new ways for citizens to be informed about what is happening in their city, and new ways to influence behaviour on new ideas. While these rapid changes present a lot of challenges I’m convinced that this is a positive trend. Great cities, despite their size, have a human dimension – citizens' views and concerns must be taken into account.
Let me give just a few examples.
New smartphone-based solutions allow us to:
- find the quickest way of travelling by public transport, check when the next bus will arrive and then pay for my trip with ease,
- share a car,
- see exactly which routes cyclists and pedestrians use – so cities can improve them,
- find out where the nearest rental bike is,
- even directly report a damaged bus stop to the responsible authorities.
Europe has great urban expertise and equipment. China has the world’s largest ‘urban mobility’ market. I am convinced that this EU–China co-operation on urban mobility is a win-win solution for our citizens and companies. But we must also remember that the impact of our urbanisation efforts goes beyond European and Chinese domestic interests.
We need to ensure sustainable mobility in our cities not only for our citizens and our economies but because our cities have a global environmental and geo-political impact. The urban mobility choices we make have a massive impact on global resources use (in particular global oil demand) and greenhouse gas emissions.
Because of its rapid urbanisation and scale China has a special responsibility but also a unique opportunity – if China chooses the right path it can be a global leader in urbanisation and urban transport and can be a model for rapidly urbanising countries throughout the world.
These are the reasons why we are committed to the EU/China Urban Partnership signed by European Union and the Government of China last year. But this partnership is not just something between governments – its success depends on you.
This event today has been designed to provide a platform for contacts and exchange with your peers. All of you here whether you are an academic, politician, government official, technical expert or in business – should take the opportunity to exchange ideas and build new ideas, relationships and projects. In consultation with stakeholders we have identified four priority areas for co-operation that you will be focussing on today:
Sustainable urban mobility plans,
Public transport operations and management
Urban road safety and
Congestion management and road user charging.
We are asking you to discuss these four topics and identify the common interest and what we should do together. We will take the outcome of your discussions, and use it as input as we define the future of our EU/China urban mobility co-operation. By working together we can improve the lives of hundreds of millions of our citizens – and have a positive impact on the rest of the world.
At the European level we are doing our best to provide the support necessary to help you make this urban mobility co-operation a success. For example:
The EC-LINK initiative, to be launched later today, and run through the EU delegation in Beijing, is specifically designed to provide the necessary funding for practical EU/China low carbon city co-operation projects over the next 4 years. In our new European research programme "Horizon 2020" we will support a large scale joint EU/China urban mobility demonstration project that should be prepared next year and start in 2015.
In closing I’d like to thank the Beijing Jiaotong University for hosting us today, and to thank the EU Chamber of Commerce in China for their help in preparing the event and the experts who have travelled from Europe to be with us today. I look forward to seeing you at the end of today and hearing about the results of your discussions.