ITS World Congress Webinar Series Kicks-off with Spotlight on Decarbonising Urban Mobility

Decarbonisation is the mainstay of sustainable and smart urban mobility strategies, which rely on innovative solutions, sound policies, and effective partnerships to achieve climate-neutral transportation. The success of such strategies also requires behavioural changes by the users; city and regional authorities must therefore make public awareness and engagement a priority in order to reach decarbonisation targets. This was the key message in the inaugural ITS World Congress Webinar.

The webinar hosted by ERTICO on 27 March was the first of three in a series that will focus on the main themes of the 30th ITS World Congress in Dubai this September. In this webinar, “Decarbonising Urban Mobility”, experts from around the world highlighted solutions that are transforming urban transportation systems based on digitalisation, automation, connectivity, electrification, shared mobility, and better urban planning. The speakers emphasised the involvement of stakeholders, compliance with standards, and collaboration among various entities to drive the transition towards green and efficient urban mobility.

ERTICO CEO, Joost Vantomme, outlined the mobility challenges faced by cities around the world, particularly related to congestion, pollution, accessibility and infrastructure.  He shared insights into some of the technological solutions, stemming, for instance, from data sharing, and also pointed out some measure that the EU is taking to advance transportation solutions for European cities through initiatives such as CIVITAS and the SUMPs, and through funded projects. Mr Vantomme noted that the EU’s efforts towards decarbonisation go beyond the planned 2035 ban on sales of new petrol and diesel-powered vehicles, and that the promotion of soft modes will play a key role in the urban context. “We have a Declaration actually on cycling, which is our ambition here in the EU 27 to double the capacity for cycling in Europe,” he remarked.

Suzanna Kraak, Policy Officer at the European Commission, elaborated on the way transport is responding to key initiatives, such as the European Union Green Deal, aiming at a climate-neutral EU by 2050.  “Climate change is obviously one of the biggest collective challenges that we’re facing, and that requires a collective strategy and action plan to be able to rise up and to tackle that challenge and this is what the Green Deal really is all about,” she said.  “It provides an opportunity to EU industries to create markets for clean technologies and products and also especially for the mobility sector to offer clean, smart, accessible and affordable transport to all.”  Ms Kraak talked about the 82 incentives as part of the EU’s Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy in ten key areas for action, including the European commitment to double high-speed rail in ten years, deploying automated mobility at a large scale and for scheduled collective travel for journeys below 500km to be carbon-neutral.

Khaled Al Awadhi, Transport Systems Director at the Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority, presented the ITS World Congress host city’s vision of smart and driverless mobility across modes, including the goal of having aerial taxi service by 2026, as a key enabling factor. Dubai’s 15-minute city concept relies heavily on good urban planning, with active modes expected to get a boost. There are plans to promote walkability and build a cycling culture for sport and commuting. Dubai boasts a number of cycling tracks, the most impressive being the Loop. This is a 93-kilometre climate-controlled pedestrian and cycling highway, which has led to an upsurge of cycling. “We have also announced the plan to extend this into an extra 100-plus kilometres in the next three years, linking areas, which currently are not cycling friendly into actually having the link between dedicated cycling tracks in different communities and different districts around the city of Dubai”, says Mr Al-Awadhi.

Tampere is in the group of 100 European cities chosen by the EU to be climate-neutral and smart cities by 2030. In March this year, Tampere was among the 23 cities given the ‘Mission Label’ by the European Commission for having successfully outlined their strategy and action plan towards climate neutrality in their Climate City Contract.  An important part of this contract is to also outline the investment strategy.  Mika Kulmala from the City of Tampere in Finland is undertaking a strategy to deliver a sustainable and digital transport system by 2030. “This means pioneering and implementing procurement of new innovations, technologies, data and information. Making innovative procurements – that’s a very good way to concrete actions,” he explained, before adding that actions need to be “utilising data operations, co-operation and hard political decisions.”

Dr Young-Jun Moon stresses the need to involve stakeholders in another aspect of future sustainable mobility – international standardisation.  He quoted the ISO London Declaration on Climate Change committing to facilitate the involvement of civil society and the most vulnerable to climate change in the development of international standards. “Typically, in our ITS society, we have to focus on why digitalisation and electrification are more important to making our society become sustainable for the future by decarbonising our cities”, says Dr Young-Jun Moon. He presented the plans of Sejong, South Korea’s new capital city, which has installed a robust digital infrastructure. The city is proposed to be carbon free and fully equipped for electric and automated modes with a focus on human-centric spaces. Prof Moon states that the key is to get people to change their trip patterns and avoid personal vehicles for short distances, and instead use alternatives such as  electromobility, automated shuttles, and public transport.

Carol Schweiger urges the use of the “carrot” rather than the “stick” to effect behavioural change towards more sustainable modes. “We need to ensure that we are providing enough of those services that actually rival using a single occupant vehicle, and I think that’s the biggest challenge.” Ms Schweiger offered insights into the US National Blueprint for Decarbonisation, which is a joint initiative by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Departments of Transportation, Energy, and the Housing and Urban Development. It’s five guiding principles are to: Implement Bold Actions to Achieve Measurable Results, Establish US Leadership, Increase Collaboration, Embrace Creative Solutions Across the Transportation System, and Ensure Safety, Equity, and Access. Strategies for transportation decarbonisation focus on more convenient land use, options for efficient travel, and clean fuels.

“If anybody asks, what are the engineers doing to decarbonise urban mobility in particular with relation to standards,” commented host Vladimir Vorotovic, Director of Strategy and Innovation at ERTICO – ITS Europe, “they provide the tools and guidance on how to measure and achieve and see the difference.”  Mr Vorotovic, who moderated the panel discussion, also detailed the ERTICO City Moonshot, which aims to interview 300 cities worldwide to understand their needs and requirements in relation to mobility and transport.  He promised more details from this important project when the industry meets for the ITS World Congress in Dubai.

Watch the full webinar recording here!

Join us for the second webinar on 16 May at 14:00 –15:00 CEST on the topic of Clean & Eco Mobility.


ITSWC Dubai Webinar 1:
Decarbonising Urban Mobility

Join us for our webinar on Decarbonising Urban Mobility on Wednesday 27 March, 14:00-15:00 CET, bringing together industry representatives, policymakers and public authorities driving implementation.