European ministers in charge of transport and environment, two sectors often at loggerheads over the environmental impact of vehicular traffic, on Tuesday recognized the urgency of steering the European Union (EU) into a new era of “clean, safe and affordable mobility” so as to improve air quality in urban areas. Coming together for the first time on Monday and Tuesday in Graz, Austria, for an informal council meeting, they pledged to speed up the rollout onto the market of least polluting vehicles and the development of infrastructure for charging electric vehicles.
In a joint statement, they also called for a European strategy on sustainable transport, with new legislation ready for application by 2021.
To better direct European funds towards soft mobility, the Transport and Environment Ministers of the 28 want to have the advantages of non-motorized movement on people’s health included in the cost-benefits analyses of projects up for financing. They thus recognized soft mobility (involving walking, cycling, skating, one-wheel scooters, gyropodes, hoverboards etc) as a full-fledged mode of transport.
They also said they wanted to increase actions such as Mobility Week, and highlighted initiatives such as car-free Sundays, implemented for example in Belgium.
It’s the first time the ministers make such a clear commitment on the need to enter a new era of clean, safe and affordable mobility in Europe, according to the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), of which Inter-Environnement Wallonie, Inter-Environnement Bruxelles and Bond Beter Leefmilieu Flanderen – environmental organisations representing Wallonia, Brussels and Flanders respectively – are members.
The EEB regretted, however, the absence of fixed targets for the year 2030 for further strengthening pollution-emission standards for vehicles. While the European Parliament supports high targets, some Member Governments still oppose them, it said.