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Remarks by Executive Vice President Timmermans and Commissioner Vălean on the European Climate Pact and Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC), gepubliceerd op woensdag 9 december 2020.

Executive Vice-President Timmermans, responsible for the European Green Deal:

I do believe what Adina and I present today has huge importance for the future of our continent. And I also think it is of immediate importance because of the important discussion the European Council is going to have on the 2030 Climate Target. For that, for us to be able to reach that, we need a Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy and we need a Climate Pact so that we keep everybody involved.

Just after the hottest November on record, it is clear that the need to tackle this climate crisis remains as high as ever.

Transport is one of the three sectors where more efforts are necessary. Emissions have been going up as you know and we need to find a clear downward trend if we are to achieve climate neutrality.

Now to be crystal clear about this: needs for transport, whether it's goods or people, will increase. I don't know about you but I certainly feel a need for transport to go and see my loved ones, which I can't do right now. And I believe I am in the company of hundreds of millions of Europeans who need to move. That necessity will not diminish, it will increase.

The challenge we face is to try and make sure that the needs of Europeans are met and at the same time the carbon footprint of transport is decreased. And for that you can't just you know tweak issues such as emissions, you need a holistic approach and look at everything that is linked to the need for transport.

One lesson we can draw from the horrible Covid crisis is that smart and sustainable transport systems prove to be very resilient. In cities with plenty of bike lanes, citizens could keep moving even when public transport became too full to socially distance. The Green Lanes - and Adina did an incredible job on that - kept medicines and essential goods moving, while smart applications showed drivers where wait times were shortest. And the use of technology and digitalization in this area will have a huge positive impact on what we want to achieve.

So it is a tiny silver lining from the lockdowns. Another one is that millions of Europeans got to experience the benefits of cleaner air. Already mayors across Europe are seizing the initiative by creating - sometimes overnight - more than 2000 km of extra bike lanes. Citizens are also expecting cars, city buses and ships in the ports to become cleaner, because zero-emission mobility means that the air in all our cities could be clean all of the time. Not just in a lockdown.

Today's strategy shapes the mobility of the future in three ways. Each transport option will become cleaner. We will shift the way people and goods move across Europe, and we will make it easy to combine different modes of transport in a single journey.

Our mobility plan comes with a bold target of more than 80 concrete actions so that we can reach it. But Adina will go into this, I won't dwell on this too much.

It is very important that we have many more zero emission cars on our roads. We need the infrastructure to facilitate that. We also need aviation to become cleaner. We need to limit short-haul journeys by aviation and make sure that under 500 km within Europe travel becomes carbon neutral. Meaning less flights, more trains and cleaner public transport. Across Europe, it's a change already happening; airlines are selling more tickets on trains, creating a win-win situation.

The car industry in Europa will flourish, but cars will become less dominant on our streets. Alliances with European cities and regions will offer clean public transport and 5,000 extra kilometres of bike lanes. New apps on our phones or on our tablets, will allow us to seamlessly combine different travel options door-to-door, from e-bikes to trams and buses to trains. As long as our transportation needs are met in a comfortable way.

If we proceed in this direction, we will see a new type of mobility emerge. A mobility that is affordable and accessible to all. Because the just transition is also crucial to our transport system. Nobody should be left behind.

Our strategy must work equally for cities that experiment with new forms of mobility and for rural areas that will have to rely on clean cars and infrastructure to charge them. This priority, on creating win-win for both and avoiding an increasing chasm between cities and rural areas, to me is absolutely essential also in this strategy.

Now, just a couple of words on the Climate Pact before I hand over to Adina.

Within the Climate Pact, we will bring together people and organisations who want to take action for the planet. Because in addition to the laws, targets, and investment plans, we also need to take action ourselves. Every individual citizen. I know that most Europeans want to do this and many are already doing this.

The Climate Pact will help showcase their actions, spread knowledge about climate change, enable people to inspire each other, and grow the momentum for climate action.

Under the Pact, volunteer ambassadors will connect with their communities to debate and take action together. The Commission will also collect pledges from individuals and organizations who wish to make their contribution to the fight against climate change known.

The Climate Pact will keep on growing over time. We therefore invite everyone to join and share your plans, your questions, and solutions with other citizens and stakeholders.

Because when it comes to tackling climate change, anyone can take action, and everyone can make a necessary and substantial contribution.

Over to Adina.


Commissioner Vălean, in charge of Transport:

Among the journalists with us today, I imagine there are transport specialists, but also journalists covering tourism, environment, consumer rights, technology, business, national affairs, European affairs. The range of angles from which you are covering transport shows how practically every aspect of our day-to-day lives is affected by it.

The transport sector contributes 5% to European GDP and employs 10 million people directly. In 2019, the EU-27 exported a total of 751 million tonnes of goods, of a value of about €2132 billion. 70% of these goods were transported by sea.

On an individual level, transport addresses the mobility needs of about 450 million people in the EU-27, and is the second-largest area of expenditure for households. In 2018, EU citizens travelled 5916 billion passenger kilometres. In 2019, about 8 billion passengers travelled on national railway networks, while nearly 1 billion passengers travelled through EU airports.

When we see planes in the air, lorries on the roads, trains on tracks, and ships on water, we see a picture of a robust and healthy economy.

Because transport is the backbone of the economy.

When Covid-19 hit our continent, air traffic almost collapsed. For some this meant a reduction in air pollution. But the sight of parked planes was worrying for those with jobs that are dependent on air traffic or logistics. Planes became the image of hope, carrying vaccines, just days ago. And the majority of vaccine distribution will take place via dedicated air cargo charter flights. The industry expects that around 8,000 jumbo jet equivalent flights will be needed worldwide.

I want to praise our transport system for the role it has played this year.

As Frans mentioned, we created Green Lanes to ensure that our common market continued to function. During those confusing times, at the beginning of the crisis, lorries packed with essential and non-essential goods and moving between the European countries, helped us to cope with the new reality and maintain our daily life going.

Despite restrictions changing regularly, ships continued to arrive in our ports with raw materials and components to keep our European industries going. Our factories could build cars and produce medicine, keeping their employees at work and creating economic value.

For every supply chain maintained intact by our transport system, hundreds of thousands of European jobs are saved.

So we need our transport to keep doing what it does, but to do it better - this is what our strategy is about. A pragmatic approach for the sector to grow, while being cleaner, smarter, future-proof, resilient.

Let me take you through some of the issues that our Strategy addresses.

Today, most inland freight in Europe is transported by road. Spend a few hours on any of our essential freight corridors on a Friday afternoon, and this is all too clear. Lorries bumper-to-bumper, congestion and air pollution. For business, where time is money, congestion is a real conundrum, costing the equivalent 1.8% of EU GDP.

The solution is to shift much of the 75% of inland freight currently transported by road to other transport modes. We want to increase rail freight by 50% by 2030. For inland waterways transport and short-sea shipping, we're targeting a 25% increase by 2030, and 50% by 2050. With a better legislative framework and proper financing, these targets are achievable.

Projections for passenger flights predict 14.4 million trips a year in 2035. You are all familiar with aviation's environmental impact and efficiency issues. But solutions are already in the pipeline. In 2035, the European aviation industry plans to have the first zero-emission aircraft in our skies. Meanwhile we will next year put on the table an initiative to boost the uptake of sustainable aviation fuels. For efficiency, it's also very encouraging to know that Europe is a frontrunner in digitalising air traffic management, and we should push to deploy the new technologies that are already available.

Our cities have a diverse transport ecosystem, accommodating public transport, micro-mobility and personal cars. Citizens in our cities have mobility options, but without a digital layer that can increase coordination and make multimodality truly available, our cities will remain congested and polluted. I am talking about intelligent traffic systems and creating a one-stop-digital shop for ticketing.

Leaving urban areas, a scenic drive across many of Europe's beautiful landscapes in an electric car may become more of an adventure than planned due to poor charging infrastructure. We are committed to putting in place, by 2025, 1 million publicly accessible recharging points around Europe.

Our Strategy comes at a moment when we need to rebuild and change. This change should offer European industry prospects across value chains to modernise, create high-quality jobs, develop new products and services, and set its sights on global leadership.

I want to make clear: every transport mode has a role to play in our transport system, in connecting our cities, towns, villages and islands. Each is here to stay, but each also has a responsibility to adapt, embrace innovation, smart technologies and digitalisation to make our transport system fit for a better future.

Thank you, I would be happy to take your questions


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