Statement by Vivianne Heijnen, Minister for the Environment, at the COP27 side event ‘Shifting Gear:

17-11-2022

‘Investing in active mobility makes sense: the returns are a healthier population and less congested, more liveable and sustainable cities […].So I’m happy to see that active mobility is being discussed here at COP27 as an important contribution towards the climate goals.'

Ladies and gentlemen,

  • Thank you all for joining us at this event.
     
  • Now I’m curious. How many of you cycle every now and then? Let’s see some hands.
     
  • Look at all these people who cycle. Don’t they look happy!
     
  • Of course, the Netherlands is known for being a cycling nation. They say that Dutch children are among the happiest in the world. I imagine one of the reasons is that they can bike almost anywhere. To school, to granddad and grandma, to football training et cetera.
     
  • This gives them the freedom to grow as individuals and live healthy, happy lives. The Dutch say that kids learn to cycle before they learn to walk.
     
  • So why am I giving cycling and children as an example?
     
  • As you know, our common goal is a future-proof, zero-emission transport system that is also inclusive for future generations. But what does this mean in practice?
     
  • We can’t achieve the Paris goals without focusing on active mobility: walking, wheeling and cycling.
     
  • 60 per cent of all urban trips are shorter than 5 kilometres, but we currently use motorised vehicles for more than half of those. We can do better!
     
  • Focusing on active mobility reduces emissions and contributes to a healthy, active lifestyle and to clean and liveable cities.
     
  • The Netherlands is a global frontrunner when it comes to active mobility, especially cycling. That’s no surprise when you consider that we have more bikes than people: 23 million bikes versus 17-and-a-half million people. We also have an excellent cycling infrastructure, if I may say so.
     
  • From our experience, it’s important to focus on four areas to make active mobility happen: availability, safety, accessibility and planning. Or ASAP for short ;) How can we put this into practice?
    • First. Active modes of transport – cycling and walking - need to be available and accessible to everyone, no matter their income or age. Like walking from home to school or work. In the Netherlands, children get cycling lessons at primary school. And several municipalities have bicycle banks where low-income families can find an affordable bike for their child.
       
    • Second. A safe, high-quality, dedicated infrastructure is vital in promoting active mobility, especially for children and the elderly. I see that cities around the world like Milan, Lima, Paris, Cape Town and Bogotá are rolling out cycle lanes, recognising the importance of high-quality infrastructure.  
       
    • Third. Active mobility improves accessibility within large and growing cities: you often get to your destination faster by bike than by car, especially in congested cities that can’t accommodate big numbers of vehicles. An example from the Netherlands is Utrecht, which plans to become a ‘10-minute city’, where everything you need is within 10 minutes from your house by bike, foot or public transport. The positive impact on air quality is obvious.
       
    • And finally. To make these focus points happen, you need to educate planners to take active mobility into account upfront when designing urban spaces.
       
  • Investing in active mobility makes sense: the returns are a healthier population and less congested, more liveable and sustainable cities.
     
  • Luckily, I see that more and more countries and cities around the world are recognising the importance of active mobility and taking these points into account. During the COVID-19 pandemic many people took to cycling. And pedestrianised areas changed the way people could enjoy their hometowns. 
  • But this increased awareness isn’t being sufficiently translated into action and international financing. It’s important that development banks and international organisations structurally reserve funds to invest in active mobility around the world.
     
  • So I’m happy to see that active mobility is being discussed here at COP27 as an important contribution towards the climate goals, and that partners like Luxembourg and the World Resources Institute, as well as the Partnership for Active Travel and Health  have called on governments to do more on active mobility.  
     
  • As a first step, I’m pleased to launch this important call to action for capacity-building for 10,000 active mobility professionals from the Transport Decarbonization Alliance.
     
  • The Netherlands is not only providing expertise for following up on the call to action. We will also invest 150,000 euros in training the first group of active mobility experts.
     
  • Of course, a lot more will be needed if we’re to achieve the call to action goals.
     
  • So I call upon you all to make similar investments. That’s why I’m hosting this event today, together with our partners from the Transport Decarbonisation Alliance, World Resources Institute and other stakeholders. We all want to accelerate the implementation of active mobility policy, which will be discussed in the first panel session. And improve funding mechanisms for active mobility, which we’ll talk about in the second panel session.
     
  • So let’s come together on this important topic and work towards a better world for future generations. And let’s cycle! To encourage this, the Dutch delegation – who obviously cycled to this meeting – will donate our bikes to Baddel company – the bike-sharing organisation here in Sharm el-Sheikh!
     
  • Thank you.

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