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Exchange of views on transport and environment

Coordinators from five new EU-funded projects presented their ideas and responded to questions at a meeting on transport and climate change in Brussels.

EU transport researchers discuss climate change © Peter Gutierrez
EU transport researchers discuss climate change
© Peter Gutierrez

Despite the lack of agreement at the recent environment summit in Copenhagen, the threat of global climate change is still widely seen as an urgent problem. Fostering investment in climate-friendly energy and transportation technologies is now a priority for many governments and organisations.

"Our new Commission has already made it very clear that lowering greenhouse gas emissions must now be among our top priorities," says European Commission Project Officer Karsten Krause. "This is clearly going to be a tough challenge for the transport sector. A quick look at the figures shows that other industrial sectors are already making progress. Most sectors have been able to reduce emissions in recent years, while in the transport sector emissions continue to rise."

Meeting tough goals

The European Union has set an ambitious target of 20% reductions in greenhouse gases by at 2020, compared with 1990 emission levels, and 60 to 80% reductions by 2050. Transport activities currently contribute about 30% of total EU greenhouse gas emissions, and this share looks set to continue to grow due to the increase in transport demand, in particular for freight and air passenger transport. The sector has also seen slower improvements in efficiency compared to other emitting sectors.

In response, a new crop of transport and environment-related research projects is now being funded under the Seventh EU Research Framework Programme (FP7) "This cluster includes projects launched in 2009 and funded under the horizontal 'TPT' call for proposals," explains Krause. "The research initiatives in question are coordination and support actions and small-scale collaborative projects with a focus on mitigation-related aspects, like the links between research, transport policies and emission reduction targets."

GHG-TransPoRD - Reducing greenhouse-gas emissions of transport beyond 2020: linking R&D, transport policies and reduction targets

Tobias Wiesenthal of the JRC presented the GHG-TransPoRD project, which aims to contribute to the development of an EU research strategy for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across the different transport modes (road, rail, air and shipping). This research strategy is to be linked to existing policy measures.

"It is obvious," said Wiesenthal, "that in the future the transport sector will have to contribute to GHG emission reductions. Reduction targets for the different transport modes have to be anticipated and aligned; research strategies and transport policies have to be developed to efficiently and effectively meet these reduction targets in the medium and long term."

REACT – Supporting research on climate-friendly transport

Led by Coventry University Enterprises Ltd., the REACT project will work to help coordinate, support and strengthen RTD on climate-friendly transport and mobility, to reduce waste of funding resources and promote integration of funding opportunities at European level. Concrete aims include:

  • Exchange of experience among research program managers and identification of the national and regional initiatives and research programs on climate-friendly transport and mobility.
  • Articulation of a long term vision and a Strategic Future Research Agenda on climate-friendly transport
  • Improving synergies between Member States, Associated States and EU RTD Agenda on climate-friendly transport, enhancing coordination of funded research initiatives among EC and national agencies.
  • Organising a set of focused dissemination activities to increase the impact of research outcomes from EC funded projects.

TOSCA – Technology opportunities and strategies towards climate-friendly transport

The TOSCA project, coordinated by partners at the University of Cambridge, aims to outline a clear strategic perspective on the contribution of future transportation technologies and fuels to reducing GHG emissions. It will assess the technical feasibility, economic affordability, and social acceptability of technology policies leading towards a lower climate-impact transport system within the EU. Three major workshops will gather important stakeholders from academia, industry, government, NGOs, and key participants from relevant ongoing and completed EU projects.

DEMOCRITOS – Developing the mobility credits integrated platform enabling travellers to improve urban transport sustainability

Vito Marcolongo of the Municipality of Genoa discussed the DEMOCRITOS project. The initiative will develop and test a new 'mobility credits' scheme that will allow travellers, mobility providers, technology providers and transport planners to understand the implications of climate policy and increasing prices for greenhouse gas emissions.

The project comprises four main tasks:

  • Define the sustainable load of greenhouse gases in a given urban area
  • Convert this load into a 'total amount of credits', that will become the common 'currency' and be distributed to all travellers
  • Define a set of rules for using the credits
  • Implement a system for the exchange of credits, such that travellers with a negative credit balance can buy credits from travellers who are 'credit positive'

"The 'Mobility Credits Platform' will help to create a behavioural context where travellers can experience the effects of changing attitudes and choices in mobility," said Marcolongo. TOSCA Partners will test the new model in the cities of Genoa, Stuttgart, Lisbon and Craiova, using simulations and a demonstration pilot.

CATCH – Carbon aware travel choices in the climate-friendly world of tomorrow

The 'Climate change and transport' event © Peter Gutierrez
The 'Climate change and transport' event
© Peter Gutierrez

The CATCH Project aims to develop a knowledge platform which will become a public information system for mobility related GHG emissions reduction advice.

Anna Clark of project partner POLIS explained, "This will be much more than your standard carbon footprint calculator. An internet-based platform will provide travellers, businesses, planners and other mobility stakeholders with tools to play their part in creating a new mobility culture."

The platform will include a virtual environmental travel assistant, driven by the CATCH mobility knowledge engine. Specific project aims are:

  • Review of the results of previous research, and engagement with existing EU funded projects WISETRIP and i-Travel, and the CIVITAS initiative;
  • Realisation of a database of GHG and transportation performance, interfacing with appropriate emissions-related systems
  • Identification and assessment of climate-friendly travel scenarios
  • Development, testing and validation of the mobility knowledge engine
  • Wide dissemination and exploitation of results through a dedicated internet web site, publications, conferences and workshops.

The CATCH project also features a strong international dimension, with partners in Brazil and China making important and unique contributions.

Working across institutional boundaries

Joining the meeting was Carlo Corposanto from the European Commission's Transport Directorate-General. Outlining his service's recent efforts towards a new transport White Paper, he said, "We believe the problem encompasses a number of different EU policies, including economic policy, social policy and environmental policy. With sustainability as our leitmotiv, the major challenges will be to reduce overall transport activity through improved planning, to increase efficiency through better coordination of the different transport modes, and to develop better and cleaner fuels."

DG Transport has put in place a wide-ranging consultation process in the run-up to its White Paper. More than one of the participants at the meeting in Brussels expressed satisfaction at seeing DG Transport working side-by-side with representatives of DG Research on this crucial problem.

Following the presentations and question and answer sessions, project coordinators and EU officials held further talks on how to increase potential synergies between the projects, in particular in terms of their dissemination strategies.