Speech at the 20th anniversary gala of the European Metropolitan Transport Authorities (EMTA) in Paris [CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY]


Distinguished mayors, municipal councils, mobility experts, members of the European Metropolitan Transport Authorities,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

There cannot be a more symbolic place for us to meet than here in Paris, overlooking the city of lights but also one of the largest metropolitan areas in Europe. It was therefore very opportune that the region of île de France called on the creation of EMTA 20 years ago, and it is very opportune that we are celebrating its anniversary here in the Eiffel Tower today.

It is not only the location which is emblematic but also the timing. Europe is accelerating on one of the most inspiring and worthwhile races we have ever attempted: the transition to clean, sustainable, and affordable energy and transport.

With the current hype over new clean transport solution, it is easy to forget that the electric car was actually invented already almost 200 years ago, right here in Europe! It even became quite popular early into the 20th century, competing against horse carriages. But it quickly lost its primacy to the combustion engine which was able to drive longer distances using the newly discovered 'black gold' of the time.

It took us many decades to understand that petrol was more black than golden; that it had tragic ramifications over our air quality and CO2 emissions and encaging us into political and economic dependence on external suppliers. It also took us many decades to understand the grave consequences of coal and diesel; too many decades. But that is changing and it is changing fast:

We have successfully electrified the majority of railroads in the EU and almost all rail traffic!
In aviation we see biofuels as a short term solution. But even electric solutions aviation has been proven possible thanks to initiatives like Solar Impulse and Pipistrel.
In the marine sector, better port facilities are being set up to facilitate alternative energy for ships. There are also interesting developments in the field of electric barges.

But the decarbonisation of road transport remains a major challenge: Road transport alone is responsible for over a fifth of Europe's CO2 emissions and is the main source of pollution in our cities. It is therefore responsible for diseases and premature deaths of millions around the world every year. We can no longer stand by and watch.

I am very glad that since we presented the Clean Energy and Mobility packages, more and more European car manufacturers have taken concrete steps; transitioning their business models to electric cars.

More and more European governments have set themselves ambitious targets on the share of clean cars on their roads or cities announcing a future restriction on combustion engines altogether.

And of course more and more cities and regions in Europe have shown great ambition and leadership, sometimes even more than their national governments. That is we have been working closely with mayors through existing platforms like the European Covenant of Mayors, and by creating new ones, like the Global Covenant of Mayors which I co-preside together with Mike Bloomberg.

Here I see the great potential and added value of EMTA. The announcement you will make tomorrow shows that you fully recognise your responsibility and are taking the measures towards sustainable mobility in each of your metropolitan regions, in line with the Commission's Strategy for low-carbon mobility. I'd like to congratulate you for that.

I'd also like to like to reassure you that I hear your calls on the supporting measures that you will need in this endeavour and that you can continue to count on us as your best ally, as we have been in the past within the framework of the Energy Union.

Three weeks ago we presented the last legislative proposal of the Energy Union with the 3rd Mobility Package. This included a set of measures to promote clean mobility solutions in public tenders, stimulating demand and further deployment of clean mobility solutions. In the last mobility packages we proposed new CO2 standards which would apply from 2025 and 2030 for new cars and vans, and for heavy good vehicles. These measures will encourage manufacturers to innovate and provide low-emission vehicles.

This is reinforced by some jurisdictions which can no longer wait. This region of the Paris Metropolitan, for example, has already committed itself to have only public electric buses by 2025. I have no doubt we will all breath the difference!

As for investment, there are many facilities and programmes at our disposal. This will be boosted even further in the new EU budget: No less than a quarter of the new budget for 2021-2027 is part of our climate-mainstreaming! It practically means 60 billion euros more for climate action. 60 billion euros more than before!

Only yesterday, we announced a 47% budgetary increase for the Connecting Europe Facility bringing it to EUR 42.3 billion, of which over EUR 30 billion are for transport.

In addition, the Commission is supporting the initiative of deployment of clean buses and has convened a group of experts to discuss best practices and learn about technical assistance opportunities to support clean bus purchases.

But there is one critical and strategic component in Europe's e-mobility value chain which is still weak in our endeavour to become a global leader: That is batteries. We do not want to give away this strategically important sector. We must be ready to compete on the global market. And this implies developing manufacturing capacities of our own batteries in Europe, we want to develop this battery market worth of 250 billion EUR per year in Europe!

The new EU Action Plan for Batteries includes a set of robust measures to boost up this industry. I strongly believe that clean batteries, 'Made in Europe' are about to charge our economy with green energy, green jobs, and green innovation!

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I realise I am the only thing standing between you and your dinner so I don’t want to take more of your time. Let me conclude by inviting you to make a toast for the future of smart, sustainable, and accessible mobility in all of EMTA cites, across all of Europe and around the world!