ECO-INNOVATIONat the heart of European policies
The 7th annual European Mobility Week ran from 16 to 22 September 2008, with more than 200 million people set to take part in the event across the EU and around the world. The event has gone from strength to strength since its inception in 2002, with the number of towns involved increasing sixfold in that time – 2 102 towns, from 39 countries, took part in 2008.
The central theme for 2008 was the concept of ‘Clean Air for All’ and, as a result, events aimed to highlight the link between mobility and air quality. Organisers strove to encourage participating local authorities to establish permanent initiatives to reduce harmful emissions. Suggested measures ranged from low-emission zones to park-and-ride centres.
European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas endorsed the theme: “Two thirds of all European citizens are still living in areas with substandard air quality. Since pollution from transport is the major contributory factor, we must find ways to cut emissions and make our cities cleaner and better places to live in."
The Mobility Week touched on the range of areas where intelligent mobility could improve air quality. Firstly, the issue of clean air in towns was flagged as an area that needed to be addressed, as transport remained the main pollution contributor in European towns. This point has been backed-up by a European Environment Agency report, which states that transport is the main source of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and fine particle emissions in the EU. For this reason, the event aimed to better air quality in European urban areas.
Another aim of the Mobility Week was to cultivate behavioural changes in citizens' transport habits, in particular the promotion of alternatives to car travel. The event gave members of the public the opportunity to test alternative forms of transport, and equally enabled local authorities to try out new services and infrastructures.
Participating authorities were encouraged to introduce at least one permanent practical measure, with the event organisers presenting a range of suggestions. One example can be found in Frankfurt, where local authorities have offered money-back guarantees to commuters if public transport is more than ten minutes late. And Edinburgh City Council has begun a programme of encouraging people to reconsider their travel options through the city’s ‘Educated Travel’ website. Perhaps the best known initiative, taken-up by a number of participants, is the annual Car-Free Day, which takes place across Europe.
The EU institutions themselves are at the forefront of encouraging cleaner travel. For example, the European Commission has established a successful bicycle-loan programme for staff members. Equally, many of the organisation employees have begun to use a teleworking scheme. To promote the use of public transport further, an agreement has been reached to offer all EU institution officials a 50% reimbursement of their public transport costs as part of the 2010 budget.
European Mobility Week:
Edinburgh City ‘educated travel’:
Annual European Community LRTAP Convention emission inventory report 1990-2006 (European Environment Agency Technical report No 7/2008):
In July 2008, the European Commission adopted a package of ‘Greening Transport’ initiatives for more sustainable transport. This consists of three main elements: a strategy to ensure transport prices better reflect their real cost to society, so that environmental damage and congestion can gradually be reduced while boosting transport efficiency and ultimately the economy as a whole; a proposal to enable Member States to help make this happen through more efficient and greener road tolls for lorries, with the revenue to be used to reduce environmental impacts from transport and cut congestion; and a communication to reduce noise from rail freight. The package also includes an inventory of existing EU measures on greening transport and a communication on the additional greening transport initiatives that the Commission will take before the end of 2009.