Policy papers

Full stop: fossil-fuelled mobility in cities

13 July 2021

A recent Eurobarometer survey has shown climate change climbing to the top of areas of public concern. It is by now well known that keeping within the 1.5C warming limit outlined in the Paris Agreement requires a wholesale change in how we live, work and play.

This is an agenda that cities across Europe are invested in, and one that they are trying to address from many different angles. One of the more obvious areas in which cities can make a difference is in the transport sector.

Indeed, to keep in line with current EU climate ambitions for 2050, the transport sector must cut its emissions by 90%. For cities, this is not only vital to achieving climate neutrality by 2030 but also to improve air quality.

This is the reasoning behind a new position paper from the Eurocities network that calls for a full stop on fossil-fuelled mobility in cities.

Climate-friendly road vehicles

The position paper, which is released ahead of the EU ‘Fit For 55’ climate package this Wednesday, cites evidence that Europe as a whole is falling short of meeting these commitments. On CO2 emissions reduction, for example, we can expect, “only a decrease of 53% under the current regulatory framework compared to the 2020 emissions level,” according to the paper. As such, Eurocities has come forward with several recommendations for the EU “to correct this trajectory”.

This includes raising the CO2 reduction targets for all road vehicles to align with EU climate ambitions, and addressing the impact of SUVs on climate change.

End fossil-fuelled vehicle sales

City administrations have several tools at their disposal. Developing a Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan provides a framework that can boost the profile of alternative modes of travel. Many cities have also introduced low or zero emission zones in a bid to make their city a more liveable place.

Despite such efforts, 74% of urban inhabitants are still exposed to harmful levels of air pollutants at concentration levels above the recommended World Health Organisation guidelines.

With this in mind, the Eurocities position paper calls for an “accelerated switch to zero emission mobility,” along with “the phase out of new fossil-fuelled vehicle sales in the EU by 2035.”

Boost e-mobility

“The boom in e-commerce in recent years, intensified under the current Covid crisis period, has led to increased goods transport at the local level. Some projections show that the growing demand for e-commerce will result in 36% more delivery vehicles in inner cities by 2030.”

That reads as bad news for cities, many of which are trying to move away from car and van use and open up public space. However, it also points to an opportunity. Cities like Stuttgart are researching and supporting alternatives to conventional delivery solutions to cope with this growing demand.

City authorities are also decarbonising their public fleets. Rotterdam, for example, will use fully electric vans only from 2025.

The Eurocities position suggests that the EU should push large fleet-owning companies to do likewise while setting the right conditions for the supply of more zero-emission vans. At the city level, it’s further considered that more can be done to support cities to deploy recharging and refuelling points to boost e-mobility in line with Eurocities previous recommendations.

Read the full paper here.


Alex Godson Eurocities Writer
Thomas Lymes Policy Advisor, Mobility & Air Quality