Pathways for accelerating transitions towards sustainable mobility in European cities

Publication date:
Emilia Smeds Centre for Transport Studies, University College London and Clemence Cavoli Centre for Transport Studies, University College London

Meeting the European Green Deal’s (EGD) target of climate-neutrality by 2050 will require a 90% reduction in emissions from the transport sector, as formulated in the European Commission’s Communication on the EGD in December 2019 (EC, 2019a). “Accelerating the shift to sustainable and smart mobility” is identified as one of eight thematic priorities in the Communication and places an emphasis on:

• shifts from road transport to rail and inland waterways;
• automated and connected multimodal mobility;
• phasing out fossil-fuel subsidies and extension of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme to aviation and maritime transport;
• increased production and deployment of alternative transport fuels, specifically zero- and low-emission vehicles;
• transport becoming “drastically” less polluting “especially in cities”, including more stringent air pollutant emissions standards and CO2 emission standards for vehicles.

It is notable that the urban context is not given much emphasis in the Commission’s priorities for future mobility: beyond emphasising the need to reduce air pollution in cities, the Communication does not mention walking, cycling, public transport or new mobility services that are central to daily mobility in urban areas. The formulation of new sectoral policy instruments linked to the EGD is still in its infancy, but the omission is nevertheless surprising, considering that tackling urban emissions is critical for meeting the 90% reduction target for transport. Road transport accounts for approximately 72% of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the EU (EC, 2019b), with urban areas contributing 40% of total road transport CO2 emissions (EC, 2020). Overall, urban areas are estimated to account for 23% of CO2 emissions from transport in the EU (EEA, 2019).