The Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy of the European Commission: A Critical Assessment

Within the European Union, transport accounts for around a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions (EEA 2020) and imposes further significant costs on society in terms of pollution, accidents, congestion and loss of biodiversity. 

To address these impacts, the European Union adopted the European Green Deal in December 2019, which aims at carbon neutrality by 2050. To achieve this, the transport sector has to reduce its CO2 emissions by 90% over the next 30 years – a stark contrast to the current trend, since transport emissions have risen in recent years.  

On the 9th of December 2020, the European Commission has therefore put forward its Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy. This complex strategy outlines how the European transport sector should be transformed and aligned with the European Green Deal by making it sustainable, smart and resilient.  

Reactions to the proposal were mixed: While some aspects of the strategy have been welcomed as steps in the right direction, concerns about either too high or too low ambitions and the lack of concrete implementation strategies have been raised.  

We have taken a closer look at the strategy and elaborated its background, content and main criticisms of transport stakeholders and the public here.

To put this into the context of our work as an international organisation, it must be added that the impact of the Smart and Sustainable Mobility Strategy, if implemented, will not be limited to the European Union. In countries and regions with close economic ties to the EU, in particular where the EU or its member states are supporting urban mobility strategies of their partner countries, this strategy might serve as a good practice and guide the international cooperation of the EU. For instance, making use of new technologies, digitalisation and automation in order to modernise the transport system could support the transition of the transport sector in our partner countries.

In recent years, alliances outside of Europe have also harnessed regional approaches to sustainably transform the transport sector. ASEAN, for example, issued a Regional Strategy on Sustainable Land Transport already in November 2018. It doesn’t include quantified goals and milestones like the European Commission’s strategy but it is similar in having a regional vision statement and in recommending regional-level and national-level actions across several sustainable transport policy domains.

Finally, sharing knowledge and experience is a fundamental part of international cooperation. Thus, have a look at our presentation about the European Commission’s mobility strategy and learn about the European approach to strengthen climate ambitions within the transport sector!