Built around the basic concept of 'From ambition to action', the stated aim of this second annual World Summit on Sustainable Mobility was to highlight practical solutions to mobility and people transport needs and point the way towards a more environmentally-friendly future.
Involving both public and private players
The first idea put forward at the event was that efforts towards sustainable mobility would come to nothing without serious commitment from the public authorities. Delegates from local authorities and government underlined the important role which their organisations need to play in mobility initiatives going forward. Montreal mayor Valérie Plante told the conference about her administration's move to purchase 300 hybrid buses with a view to transforming the city's public transportation. "We're fully hybrid and ready to get fully electrified. In Montreal, and in Canada as a whole, we know that electrification is the way to go", she told the audience. Ms Plante reiterated her promise to build more cycle lanes and footpaths, given that in Montreal "cars are growing in number faster than people. People need more mobility options." She also underlined her determination to see plans to build a new metro line through to completion. "The 'pink line' is a very bold project. Mobility is also about bringing social change", the Montreal mayor pointed out.
Over from the United States, Kansas City's Chief Innovation Officer, Bob Bennett, talked about his job, which involves working to draw up a strategy, including "the clean energy perspective, enhancing our use of data to make better decisions and better coordinate our departments." He explained: "We're the smartest city on earth right now. We've emulated what others cities have done incredibly well: Barcelona for public WiFi, San Diego for adaptive lighting, Adelaide for adaptive lighting and sensors in lights, and New York for digital information kiosks. On top of that, Kansas City adds data. Sharing it makes it much more powerful." As far as future challenges are concerned, the city plans to "offer a private-public partnership for startups to come in and build a smart city at scale. We're talking about a 10 to 30-year partnership here, where they'll have access to the city infrastructures, from our water network to our air quality, and all the data that comes with it." Bennett revealed that he was "excited that there is a smart-city focus now", across the United States, so that "cities and states are able to exchange best practices." Such exchanges will help to determine how the Smart Cities of the future will look. "Between all three levels of government, we as organisations already have a great amount of data. We need to leverage that expertise by sharing the data", he told the Movin'On attendees. Former astronaut Marc Garneau, who now serves as Minister of Transport in the Canadian government, painted a similar picture of smart mobility. "The government has created a centre for transportation data, which gives us access to accurate data. Better data is key to making better decisions", he argued. On the subject of public-private partnerships, Garneau stressed that "it's important to look towards the private sector for some projects", especially in order to meet the challenges of building appropriate infrastructure for modern cities.
A call for projects from another Canadian Minister, the one in charge of the Economy, Science and Innovation, has led to the establishment of a Centre of Excellence in Open Mobility Technologies. Inspired by the Fabrique des Mobilités in France – an organisation that brings together a wide range of players with a view to pursuing 'innovation in action' – and launched in partnership with Innovation specialists including Savoir-faire Linux, Coop Carbone, La Fabrique Agile and OuiShare Québec, the aim of this initiative is to bring together Innovation players, highlight existing technology solutions and encourage the creation of others. Meanwhile the authorities chose the Movin'On event to unveil a '2018-2023 Action Plan for the Road Transport and Sustainable Mobility Industry', to be funded to the tune of 118 million dollars. Quebec's deputy premier Dominique Anglade told the conference: "This major action plan embodies the determination of our government to modernize Quebec by bringing innovation and sustainable development. It will foster the growth of companies working in Quebec's road transport equipment industry. Combined with the initiatives proposed as part of our 'Sustainable Mobility 2030' policy, the measures we implement will help to ensure greater recognition for Quebec as a leading player in the future of Mobility – safe, sustainable and connected mobility." In order to make Quebec a leader in this field, a Sustainable Mobility park will be set up, with four million dollars' worth of investment earmarked over the next five years to support projects arising from the various workstreams running as part of Propulsion Québec – 'the cluster for electric and smart transportation'.
Bertrand Piccard, who heads up the International Committee for Clean Technologies that he set up in conjunction with André Borschberg, is working to promote sustainable energy solutions. He told the audience: "We've set a challenge to select 1000 solutions designed to protect the environment, and we're insisting on profitability." Piccard argues that governments and firms will only adopt more environmentally-friendly solutions if they see a way of making a profit. "All of us here at Movin'On are convinced about sustainability and technology, but some people don't care, want business as usual, want to keep their habits. We therefore need to highlight the profitability angle – for example how we can create jobs... We have to be logical – not just ecological – when we present our solutions to the politicians", he underlined. Bertrand Piccard's NGO has set out to breathe new life into the changes he believes are necessary, encouraging adoption at scale. "We need governments, legislators to show the lead. If we explain to people why we have to do it, they'll understand", he suggested, pointing out the urgency of the need, with "seven million people dying every year because of air pollution."
"Innovation and sustainable mobility are one and the same thing"
Michelin CEO Jean-Dominique Sénard, seconded the need for broad cooperation: "These collaborative efforts are the key to the future. I can't think of one country in the world where collaboration between the public and private sectors won't be the key to the future. It is absolutely essential, and these private-public partnerships need regulation. Innovation and sustainable mobility are one and the same thing", he told the conference.
When we stopped financing shale gas in the United States and Canada, we lost customers, but we accelerated the financing of the transition to cleaner energy
Antoine Sire, Head of Company Engagement for the BNP Paribas Group, explained that the bank had endeavored over the past few years to "stop financing projects which BNP Paribas saw as running counter to the transition to clean energy." He explained: "Company projects are usually business projects; ours are linked to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals set out by the United Nations. When we stopped financing shale gas production in theUnited States and Canada, we lost customers, but we accelerated the financing of the transition to cleaner energy."
of all car journeys
made today are less than four kilometers
Those decisions are strongly supported by NGOs working in the environment sphere, including WWF and Greenpeace. Marie-Christine Korniloff, who is in charge of corporate relations at WWF France, told the conference: "We take a great interest in transport issues and we think that in order to change the world we need to work with companies. We don't always go along with what they do, and we tell them so. We make great efforts to promote joint initiatives, bringing together financial players, communities and companies in order to create solutions at scale. If automobile sector players – and there are a lot of them –can find solutions, each of us can and must take action. WWF is in fact about to launch an application designed to enable anyone and everyone who has a good idea to act on it. It's vital to limit the increase in global warming to two degrees, and the corresponding volume of CO2 emitted must be spread among the various players in the economy. We believe that we should be able to reduce global mobility by 25% by 2050 compared with 2010 by reducing 'constrained' or 'forced' travel. Today one in four car journeys is of less than four kilometers."
We're one of the few environmental organizations that has the capacity to shift big corporate behavior, by working side by side with or fighting companies to get them to be environmental and climate leaders.
Joanna Kerr, Executive Director of Greenpeace Canada, echoed the views of her French colleague. She told the Movin'On attendees: "This is a huge ecosystem and there are small entrepreneurs, governors, city mayors, big corporations (…) that are trying to lead the way. We're one of the few environmental organizations that has the capacity to shift big corporate behavior, by working side by side with or fighting companies to get them to be environmental and climate leaders. Our role is really trying to shift people's minds. Fifteen years ago, Greenpeace was saying that we had to get to 100%renewable energy by 2050, and back then people thought that was crazy. But you keep saying it, you keep talking about the impossible as the possible future, you keep showing solutions, and you can change the belief system. Our big focus is to speed the inevitable decline of oil. In many ways, our government is trying to meet the Paris agreements but it's so heavily influenced by the oil sector that just a few days ago, our government committed $4.5 billion to keep funding the Trans Mountain pipeline. BNP Paribas was one of the first to pull their money out. Financial institutions do see the risks of investment in fossil fuels." She predicted that "sustainable mobility will be electric, connected, shared and automated. It's going to take a lot of collaboration. One of the biggest challenges is government regulation – allowing self-driving cars to share the road, building the right infrastructure, etc. With these innovations will come health benefits from less air pollution and also more safety, fewer accidents. Around 40,000 people die on the roads every year in the US. Meanwhile here in Canada we're way too slow regarding renewable energies. We're slowly developing wind and solar, but nothing compared to Europe or Costa Rica, nothing in comparison to California. However, Vancouver and Montreal are real leaders. Hopefully there'll be healthy competition. Vancouver has committed to being the greenest city in the world by 2020. In Toronto, our transportation system is from the last century; and we've had very regressive mayors. Rob Ford has basically championed the SUV. He got rid of bike lanes. And while we're talking about sustainable mobility, we're still not talking about slowing consumerism. We can't just be creating more and more electric cars. Unregulated capitalism is not going to get us out of this problem", warned the Greenpeace Canada Executive Director.
Electrification in all sectors
Soon, fleets of electric vehicles
Laurent Burelle, President and CEO of the French firm Plastic Omnium, a company that specializes in the manufacturing and sale of plastics, recounted the history of his company. "From 1945, with production of a million cars per year, to today – close to one hundred million – we've seen natural progress in technology, safety, quality and emissions reduction. From 1945 to 1990, there was continuous technological improvement, during which we also had to win market share and open new factories. After 1990, we had to build factories in order to continue to grow the market and we had to close those which were no longer up to date. By 2005, it was no longer a matter of technology continuum, it was a 'technology jump'", explained the auto OEM specialist, adding with a touch of wry humour: "I'm here to talk to you about a past world. I'm the world's leading maker of car fuel tanks and bumpers, which will disappear in the near future as the self-driving car takes over. As a collectivity, as a nation, we've decided that autonomous driving should be a nice solution to traffic and pollution. I think that in the next ten years, hybrids will rise to 40 or 50% of vehicle production worldwide."
Sailor and captain of the hydrogen-propelled vessel Energy Observer Victorien Erussard focused on maritime transport fuel, pointing out that "hydrogen is the most abundant element on the planet; it's a real 'Swiss knife' for energy." Jean-Dominique Sénard agreed with him, explaining: "Electricity is key. But there's a huge problem that hasn't yet been solved: how are you going to plugin all your electric cars in the evening and charge them all up?". His solution: "Hydrogen is probably the future."
Bertrand Piccard told the audience that in the air transport sector short-distance passenger flights powered by electricity will make their debut in just over eight years. The Swiss balloonist and founder of the Solar Impulse project became in 2016 the first person to complete a successful round-the-world solar-powered flight. Air mobility – electric or otherwise, looks inevitably set to increase. Jon Rimanelli, founder and CEO at Airspace Experience Technologies (AirspaceX), pointed out that "last year US drivers wasted $300 billion in fuel and lost productivity due to gridlocked traffic." He would therefore like to see "a scenario where we're flying above the traffic." He explained: "Traffic is taking over our lives. Urban commuters sit in traffic for an average of 42 hours per year, there are 1.5 billion people shuttling back and forth. Take that traffic off the road and you'll ultimately improve people's quality of life, not just on the ground but also in the air."
Another 'above-the-ground' solution is the hyperloop. Anita Sengupta, Senior Vice President at Hyperloop One, argued that tomorrow's solutions will be all about "reinventing transportation in order to eliminate the barriers of distance and time." Such solutions are of course currently just in their infancy. Nevertheless, "four years ago, this company was started in somebody's garage. Now we have 255 people on our innovation campus and we're the only company that has actually built an actual Hyperloop", underlined Ms Sengupta, offering the Movin'On audience an optimistic assertion: "Hyperloop is the green future of transportation."