In 2017, transport accounted for 27% of the EU’s CO2 emissions and emissions in the transport sector increased in both 2018 and 2019, meaning large-scale changes will be needed in order to achieve the EU’s ambitious climate goals. With the long-term goal of cutting emissions in the transport sector by 90% by 2050, the EU's Mobility Strategy is one of the main initiatives of the European Green Deal, aiming to lay the foundations for achieving the green and digital transformation objectives in the EU transport system. The strategy was proposed by the European Commission at the end of last year is and is complemented by an action plan listing concrete measures to be adopted over the next four years. Zero emission vehicles and alternative fuels infrastructure, pricing carbon with better incentives for users, and making mobility more affordable and accessible are among the key areas defined by the action plan.
Robert van Asten (NL/RE), Alderman of The Hague Municipality and rapporteur of the opinion, said: “Local and regional authorities play a crucial role in the mobility transition linking the EU Green Deal and digital transition for a more sustainable and smarter mobility. The social and inclusive aspects are key components in my report, as the mobility transition also requires a behavioural change in which the user is central. The EU can help us better link connectivity, accessibility, and health, not just by financing, but also by ensuring standardization and harmonization of EU rules. We also need to take the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans of the European Commission into account which can be an effective instrument for cooperation between different layers of government, but only if they are sufficiently flexible and match the challenges faced by cities and regions."
Ismail Ertug, member of the European Parliament, commented on the CoR's opinion: "The EU's 'Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy' is setting the course for the future of the European transport sector. The twin challenges of digitalisation and decarbonisation are a major task for the coming decades. To succeed, the European, the national and not least the regional level have to work closely together. This goes especially for infrastructural projects, whether we are talking about missing cross border links, improved railway systems or a comprehensive network of alternative fuels infrastructure."
The CoR welcomes the Mobility Strategy proposed by the European Commission but has identified several areas which can be improved on. Members especially stressed the importance of the regional dimension of the mobility strategy, as local and regional authorities play a key role in shaping European transport policy and providing mobility services and infrastructure. Given this reality, a successful mobility transition will require strong engagement from the local and regional authorities and a joint approach involving all levels of government, in line with the principle of active subsidiarity.
The opinion also points out that, apart from making transport itself more sustainable, by, for instance, expanding the use of rail rather than aviation, the mobility transition also requires a change in citizens' behaviour. Aspects, such as reducing distances and the amount of travel where possible, changing towards more active forms of mobility, such as cycling and walking, and sharing modes of transport, need to be vastly expanded in order to achieve the ambitious goal of cutting emissions in the transport sector by 90% by 2050.
Members also highlighted the absence of concrete initiatives for rural areas in the Commission's strategy despite the important role of mobility in ensuring the provision of services in rural areas with sparse infrastructure. The opinion therefore calls for more European funds and regulatory measures to help improve the mobility of citizens, especially in more sparsely populated areas.
Given its regional dimension and its importance for the European Green Deal, mobility and transport infrastructure has been identified as one of the key areas where cooperation between the Committee of the Regions and the European Commission should be enhanced.
A big part of the EU’s strategy to make transport more sustainable is the shift to rail. 2021 has been officially designated as the European Year of Rail (EYR) and the CoR has been actively involved in the EYR from the outset, working together with the Commission and organizing several local events in cooperation with CoR members. CoR President Apostolos Tzitzikostas and several other members are also expected to visit the Connecting Europe Express train along its route through 23 Member States from 2 September to 7 October.
Another key area for the CoR will be the so called "Horizon Europe Mission" to make 100 cities in Europe climate neutral by 2030. One of the first milestones towards climate neutral cities will be the "New Urban Mobility Framework" which the European Commission will present towards the end of this year. Both initiatives are key topics for the CoR and an active subsidiarity approach towards sustainable urban mobility is the key to success.
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