No magic bullet needed to clean up transport in cities

March 11, 2024
We have all the solutions we need, says new study

New modelling by Clean Cities reveals transport emissions can be cut by over 90% by the 2030s with swift implementation of well established urban transport measures. 

This is the key take-away from a first-of-its-kind study modelling five cities from across Europe (Madrid, Greater Manchester, Milan, Brussels and Warsaw). The measures include: introducing low- or zero-emission zones, greening urban logistics fleets, electrifying the public transport network, expanding cycling infrastructure, and introducing traffic-calming measures.

The report (E)Mission: Zero (1) models four different scenarios representing a range of common decarbonisation strategies – the first prioritising active and public transport, the second electrification, the third combining those two and the fourth being a high-ambition scenario that takes cities close to zero-emission mobility. In the most ambitious scenario, cities would need to go as far as possible on implementing zero-emission zones, electrifying the vehicle fleet and overhauling urban logistics services (2).

Energy use can be slashed by two thirds

If the most ambitious scenario is achieved, a dramatic reduction in energy demand becomes possible: the combination of electrification, reduced car use and a shift to more energy-efficient transport modes would cut energy use in urban transport by two-thirds.

Delivering on the EU’s latest climate target

The report provides critical evidence on how the new climate target recently put forward by the European Commission can be achieved (3). The target foresees a 90% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors by 2040, and an 84% reduction in emissions from domestic transport, which the most ambitious scenario modelled by Clean Cities would make possible (4). One hundred European cities have set even more ambitious targets and pledged to become climate neutral by 2030 under the EU’s Cities Mission (5). 

Barbara Stoll, Senior Director of the Clean Cities Campaign, said: “This first-of-its-kind analysis shows that we can absolutely create liveable, healthy and climate-friendly cities without reinventing the wheel. The solutions exist for city leaders to act now, and if they do, they will cut air pollution, reduce fuel bills and free up more space for communities to connect. This is a real ‘Yes, we can’ moment for cities.”

Win-win for the economy

There is a range of additional benefits associated with cutting transport emissions. In all five cities, roadside emissions of harmful nitrogen oxides can be cut by up to more than 90%, saving lives. Road traffic deaths are also estimated to decrease by, on average, a third across the cities (6). A cost-benefit analysis shows a net saving for almost all scenarios in the five cities.

NOTES to Editors
1. Link to briefing 
2. A range of background reductions from current EU policies, especially the European Green Deal, and other baseline measures are also taken into account. European Commission. (2024).
3. Commission presents recommendation for 2040 emissions reduction target to set the path to climate neutrality in 2050. The overall goal of a 90% reduction applies compared to 1990 levels, the 84% reduction in emissions from domestic transport to 2015 levels.
4. A formal decision will be taken after the European elections taking place in June.
5.European Commission (2024). EU Mission: Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities. 
6. The estimated reductions in road traffic deaths vary by city and range from -19.3% to -49.3%, averaging -33.3% across the five cities.


Celeste Hicks (EN / FR)

Communications and Media Manager, Clean Cities Campaign | +44 7957 915 696

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