In order to hit its climate targets, Europe needs, not just a transition towards more sustainable transport, but an evolution. However, it is no secret that the new technologies and services needed will require significant investment to put in place state-of-the-art, innovative solutions. There are a range of funding and financing options available for these solutions, which blend investment from many different sources, for cities and regions, yet, navigating these is often a complex task.
This year’s Urban Mobility Days, the European Commission’s flagship urban mobility conference (held in Seville, Spain, from 4-6 October) will provide an update, analysis of and debate on the key issues surrounding investments in sustainable urban mobility.
In a dedicated session with several high-level speakers, the conference examines lessons learnt from funding schemes such as the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), the role of instruments such as the Innovation Fund, the Just Transition Mechanism’s Public Sector Loan Facility, Green ASSIST, ELENA, and much more.
Ahead of the conference, session panellist, Francoise Guaspare - Senior Policy Advisor in charge of transport and mobility at Ile-de-France Europe - spoke to Eltis about the critical questions on cities’ and regions’ lips, the challenges faced so far, and ambitions for the future.
What does your role at Ile-de-France (IdF) involve?
I am a senior policy advisor in charge of transport and mobility at Ile-de-France Europe, the representation of Ile-de-France in Brussels. Our main mission is to:
- Inform the Ile-de-France local and regional decision-makers, administrations and stakeholders, as early as possible, on European institutions' legislation or communication.
- Support the actors in their replies to European projects. The association brings technical assistance to the region and county council members of IdFE and other structures wishing to take part in European projects. We identify relevant programmes and partners and support our actors in drafting the application itself.
- Communication and networking: IdFE promotes policies and initiatives implemented by Ile-de-France local and regional authorities at the EU level (towards the European institutions, networks and partner regions). IdFE is a member of various European Networks for the exchange of best practices, to build common strategies that allow us to defend our interests at the EU level.
For example, as leader of transport working groups in ERRIN and Polis, networks of European cities and regions cooperating for innovative transport solutions, I contribute to improving public transport through integrated strategies and facilitate the dialogue between local and regional authorities and the European level and other actors such as industry, clusters, research centres and universities.
You will be a panelist on the upcoming UMD session, “Funding and Financing Urban Mobility: Lessons Learnt and New Ideas”, why is this topic important to Ile de France?
Financing public transport is an urgent ecological and social priority. At a time of climate change, we need to reduce the number of individual cars and encourage the shift to public transport: It is an unquestioned solution. Unfortunately, Ile-de-France does not have sufficient financial resources to develop public transport throughout its territory.
Financial resources have been weakened since the Covid-19 pandemic, and then by the inflation shock of 2022. The transition towards clean fleets and rolling stock in general in local and regional transport for passengers and goods is crucial to achieving ambitions in view of reaching the Green Deal objectives.
This is why, the Ile-de-France Region and Ile-de-France Mobilités, the regional transport authority, have been fighting for strong EU and national investment in transport to create a clean, safe, and well-working transport system which is accessible to all and contributes to better health and air quality for citizens.
Funding is often compartmentalised: energy, transport and digital research, innovation and investment are all funded by separate initiatives. How can we create synergies – specifically for cities/regions who are managing integrated projects?
We are at a critical moment, where we have a real chance to influence the next programme and create synergies between all sectors. The POLIS & ERRIN task force, that I co-lead, focuses on the crucial topic of urban nodes within the TEN-T regulation under revision. Since 2019, we have provided feedback and recommendations to the European Commission and European Parliament on the definition, components, and requirements on Urban Nodes and TEN-T legislation.
We have initiated discussions on the future Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) with DG MOVE. It is essential to discuss the financing mechanisms required to support urban nodes in meeting the objectives of the upcoming TEN-T regulation. It is essential to ensure that adequate financial resources are allocated to urban nodes. We have been longstanding proponents of enhancing synergies among financial support instruments, emphasising the need for improved collaboration and integration of Transport-Energy-Digital projects.
Additionally, we are actively backing the establishment of an "Urban CEF," but also under other European programmes which would offer greater and more substantial support specifically tailored to projects related to urban nodes. Today, we have a real chance to shift in the right direction.
Concretely, how is Ile de France deploying such international funding, and what progress/developments towards sustainable mobility have they helped advance?
The Ile-de-France Region and its stakeholders have benefited from European co-funding to support the development of sustainable mobility projects. For example, the M2I (Integrated mobility for the Paris/Île-de-France Region) Building Excellency in mobility was selected by the Commission in response to the CEF Call launched in 2016 and received funds to develop smart mobility digital solutions and address users' need for reliable information. It is part of the Ile-de-France MAAS, implemented by Ile-de-France Mobilités, the regional transport authority, promoting modal shift from individual cars to public transport and other modes (bike, shared vehicles).
The action aims to improve the reliability and safety of public transport and contributes to strengthening innovation in sustainable mobility. We have also benefited from European funding via the CEF blending Facility or AFIF to renew the RATP's diesel bus fleet with electric buses.
Also, the Societé du Grand Paris has been granted by the EC via the EF to connect the new lines of the Grand Paris Express (a new high-capacity metro network, linking up the main centres of the metropolitan area of Paris and Ile de France) with the European and national networks. Many actors in the Paris Region have been able to test their new urban innovative mobility solutions by partnering with projects funded by Horizon Europe.
What have been the key challenges, you as a region have faced in accessing and navigating such EU funding instruments?
If I were being provocative, I would say that there are not enough EU transport funding instruments to be lost! There are currently very few European programmes providing financial support for mobility projects. The public sector has been very active in obtaining more budget for transport in the current programme to try to fulfil the EU requirements, for example, to implement the clean vehicle directive measures.
However, as of today, there is not a sufficient transport budget in the MFF to achieve the goal of the Green Deal. The main challenge this year will be to convince the Member States that the transport sector investments are crucial to support the local and regional authorities in their ecological transition, and that they need to increase the transport part in the next MFF. Another challenge will be that the next Commission expands and enhances mechanisms for common learning and innovation related to urban issues (including SUMP) through programmes like Horizon Europe and INTERREG.
You are also part of the Climate Neutral Cities Mission Advisory Board; how do you feel the mission can support cities and regions in better accessing and deploying funds towards sustainable mobility, and what actions need to take place to ensure the mission is able to achieve this?
In two years, the Cities Mission has already gained positive results and has created a real connection between citizens, cities, national governments and the Commission. And the Mission has helped placing climate neutrality at the top of the political agenda. Sustainable mobility is of course a priority sector for cities. The total budget for the cities' mission for the first three years of Horizon Europe is around €360 million. As regards access to other sources of EU funding, work is progressing on a number of funding programmes (CEF - LIFE - European Urban Initiative - Digital Europe - European Innovation Council).
However, it is clear that public funds can only cover a fraction of the costs of the climate transition and that a large part of the necessary investments will have to be covered by private investments.
How can regions like IdF better collaborate with municipalities to accelerate progress?
As political authority responsible for environment and mobility, regions support cities and urban communities along their journey in view to accelerate their climate transition. By French law, the Region is the leader in most climate-related issues, namely land use planning, biodiversity protection, climate, air quality and energy, and transport. Regions are in charge of elaborating master plans on air quality, energy and climate and local authorities are in charge of implementing these plans at the local level.
In addition, the IDF Region is also competent to organise urban mobility. For all these reasons, since the origin, the Ile de France Region has been deeply involved in the design of the Cities Mission and supported the local authorities in their replies to the call of interest launched by the European Commission.
You have also championed the role and opportunities for young people in the future of urban mobility. Why do you feel this is important, and where do you feel further opportunities for progress are (given it is the European Year of Skills)?
2022 was the European Year of Youth. 2023 the European Year of Skills. Europe needs the vision, engagement and participation of all young people to build a better future that is greener, more inclusive, and digital. This includes a rethinking of the urban mobility framework to make it more in line with the youths’ needs and priorities. Regional authorities implement strong and ambitious measures radically transforming urban lifestyles.
To be both acceptable and accepted, this transition must be inclusive and fair to all and so it must involve and engage all citizens, in particular the young generation. The participation of the youth in the process of addressing environmental issues, as well as in the implementation of their solutions is developing in many European cities and regions. We need to continue to think how we build on this: We can establish youth advisory boards, internships, open forums - it needs to be more comprehensive and durable. Young people can be the ambassadors of some of the new mobility solutions. But it is clear that young people should be part of the debate and given concrete opportunities to make a difference in their communities.
Urban Mobility Days seeks to bring together stakeholders from across the mobility sector for discussion. You yourself participate in a range of forums for collaboration and exchange on sustainable and smart transport. Why do you feel this is so important?
The upcoming Urban Mobility Days in Seville, Spain, will present an opportunity for policy-makers, local and regional authorities, academics, NGOs, urban transport practitioners, and urban planners to exchange on the latest developments in sustainable urban mobility planning, and solutions to make mobility in cities and towns more sustainable. This year’s edition is special, the last one before the European elections.
What are you most looking forward to about UMD?
The Urban Mobility Days will offer a platform for debates and open discussion with European Institutions. It will be an opportunity to take stock of actions already initiated and discuss the new European action plan to make Europe carbon neutral by 2050, while not forgetting to request the necessary funding for concrete implementation.
For more information and to register for Urban Mobility Days, see here.
To view the programme, see here.
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