Full interview with Stephanos Anastasiadis on the way forward to sustainable mobility

Stephanos Anastasiadis, Policy Officer at the European federation for Transport & Environment, considers that a pre-requisite for sustainable mobility is that all forms of transport pay for their external costs to the environment and society.

Your organisation is campaigning for people to use their
car less and for initiatives such as car sharing. Can you tell
EURACTIV how the growth of car use can be kept in check and how the
concept of car sharing can be developed? Are the European
institutions backing proposals such as these?

European institutions are best placed to provide
the frameworks within which EU transport develops in individual
Member States. If these institutions want people to use their cars
less they have to ensure that national governments are provided
with a legal framework that enables them to charge the right price
for transport – so that car users pay all the costs that their
actions cause society. At the same time they must ensure the
alternatives to the car are accessible, affordable and clean, for
example by enabling local authorities to stipulate strict
environmental criteria in public transport tendering processes. The
EU institutions have not yet taken this bold step. Car sharing is a
valuable alternative to car ownership, but Europe cannot promote it
directly – this is the responsibility of member states.

In your view, are the global car and aeroplane
manufacturers taking on their part of the burden by producing
cleaner vehicles?

Technology has a role to play in reducing the
harm to environmental and human health caused by carbon-powered
vehicles, but it is not a panacea. Air and private motor transport
is undergoing exponential growth mainly because these modes do not
pay the true costs of the degradation they cause – a clear case is
the increase in low-cost flights which are in part subsidised
through cheaper airport charges, which has promoted a level of
travel that would have been unthinkable 20 years ago. Also, making
vehicles cleaner will not reduce other environmental and social
damage such as noise pollution and community severance.

The revision of the trans-European transport networks
refers to 30 projects. Do you think that these projects will help
create a sustainable transport system? What do you recommend for
this to happen?

No, this policy will not encourage a more
sustainable transport system. T&E has always maintained that
the premise behind the 30 major new transport projects is flawed –
it is based on an untenable economic argument: that new transport
infrastructure will automatically bring wealth. This is a fallacy,
and has been recognised as such by many national governments and
economic specialists. In fact many of these projects, and they are
predominantly roads, will simple blight the local populations they
pass through – economically and socially, as well as from an
environmental point of view.

What do you see as the main obstacles to a modal shift from
road and air transport to rail, waterborne transport, public
transport and non-motorised mobility?

Really this goes back to the earlier point –
that many forms of transport are simply not paying for their
external costs to the environment and society. A practical example
of how the issue of ‘getting the prices right’ can be incorporated
into EU policy is demonstrated by the T&E commissioned
alternative to the European Commission’s proposed amendment to the
Eurovignette directive. Here, leading economist Per Kågeson put
forward a proposal which really ensured Member States could
implement a lorry charging system that ensured that road transport
paid its true external costs.

What is the situation like in the future Member States? Are
they implementing EU legislation in a timely and satisfactory
way?

It varies. One area where Member States are
having great problems is air quality, in particular meeting the air
quality standards set out in a series of daughter directives
resulting from EU framework legislation on air quality management
and assessment. The issue is particularly acute in large cities w
here road traffic can be the biggest source of air pollution:
unless something is done to stop traffic volumes growing at such a
huge rate, these air quality targets are going to become even
harder to meet.

Across Europe, which do you see as the countries lagging
furthest behind in taking up the challenge of sustainable
mobility?

All countries have particular weaknesses and
strengths in promoting sustainable transport; this can be as much
about the state of the existing transport infrastructure as about
political will. Sustainable mobility is a challenge and there are
some excellent examples of courageous decision-making. A clear
example is the London congestion charge, which has helped cut
congestion by 15% in the city, facilitating bus journeys,
encouraging more cycling and improving air quality and the street
environment. Other European cities such as Stockholm are now
looking to introduce a similar scheme – this is a real example of
one country or city taking the lead that inspires others to
follow.

 

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