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Not even close: New study finds European cities are failing to build a cleaner future

No major European city is fully on track to move its citizens onto more climate-friendly forms of transport by 2030, threatening to undermine a vital component of the EU’s efforts to cut greenhouse gases.

The lack of progress made by 36 cities in the region was revealed in a report released today (1) by the Clean Cities Campaign, a coalition of organisations pushing for European city leaders to reach zero-emission mobility by the turn of the decade.

“Our report should be a wake-up call to city leaders across Europe,” said Barbara Stoll, Director of the Clean Cities Campaign. “Cities need to take much more serious action to radically reduce emissions from transport and they must set a clear vision, timeline, and a pathway for fully transitioning to active, shared, and electric mobility by 2030”.

Nearly three in four Europeans live in cities, making urban centres critical in shifting toward a sustainable, environmentally friendly future. According to the European Commission, urban mobility accounts for almost a quarter of the EU’s greenhouse gases from transport, which is the only sector to have seen an increase in emissions since 1990. In its “Zero Pollution Action Plan” published in May last year, the Commission also said more than 100 cities across the continent had breached EU air quality limits (2).

The Clean Cities Campaign’s research shows that significant improvements are needed to make sure cities can play their role in meeting the region’s zero emission goal. These include setting clear and binding zero-emission urban mobility goals for 2030 and reviewing EU legislation accordingly (3).

The report examined whether cities have what it takes to fully decarbonise their transport systems through the lenses of access to active travel options like walking or cycling, safety, affordable public transport, congestion, charging infrastructure and clean air.

Oslo came out on top in the report, based on measures ranging from more space for walking and cycling to road safety and affordability of public transport, with a score of 71.5%. It was followed by Amsterdam with 65.5% and Helsinki with 64.2%. A score of less than 100% indicates that too little is being done to achieve zero emission mobility by 2030.

The lowest-ranked city in the report was Naples with 37.8%, just below Krakow with 37.9%. Unlike Oslo, these cities have high levels of congestion and a lack of policies to reduce the use of polluting cars.
“This benchmark shows which cities can serve as inspiration and that different pathways to a more sustainable urban future exist,” Stoll said. She added that “measures to combat the spread of Covid-19 have created a window into a possible future with more space for people, cleaner air and quieter, safer streets”.


Press Contact
Cristina Aroldi
Communications & Media Manager, Clean Cities Campaign

Notes to editor:
(1) Cities were benchmarked against official or widely accepted references (such as the World Health Organization air-quality guidelines or the EU’s ‘vision zero’ for road safety). Where such references didn’t exist, a best-in-class approach was used. Ricardo Energy & Environment carried out the data collection and analysis using European-wide datasets where possible while also contacting each city for additional information.

(2) Zero Pollution Action Plan (May, 2021)
Recognising the key role of urban mobility in cutting CO2 emissions and delivering cleaner air, the European Commission has also launched a “Mission for 100 climate-neutral and smart cities by 2030” that will provide new support and funding to selected cities.

(3)The Urban Mobility Framework that was proposed by the European Commission in December 2021 requires for the first time that all 424 major cities along the TEN-T network adopt Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans to promote zero-emission mobility, including public transport, walking and cycling. However, according to the Clean Cities Campaign, the proposal should be reviewed to include a binding 2030 zero-emission mobility target as a central element of cities’ Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans.

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