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Address by Minister of State Alan Kelly T.D. at the European Green Transport Conference, Dublin

06 - 05 - 2011

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I.              Introduction
 
Colleagues, Friends, Ladies & Gentlemen,
 
I am delighted to welcome you all here and give the opening address for the European Green Transport Conference.
 
I sincerely hope this conference serves to create awareness surrounding the opportunities available in the field of low-carbon transport technology & infrastructure. It is a rapidly-evolving area of the new economy and one that will be supported by the newly elected Government as successful commercial output in this field will have much wider societal benefits – one of which is economic competitiveness.
 
However if we are to achieve something in this field, we cannot just focus on products we can manufacture in Ireland but look at ways of forging strategic partnerships with Irish foreign firms and organisations, which will be supported by Government.
 
We have the potential to develop, along with the rest of Western Europe, viable local and international supply chains for the transport systems of the future. We are behind the grain on this to date compared to the Far East but collaboration is the way forward to help create a more secure and sustainable system.  
 
The main drivers of what you could call the ‘green transport agenda’ are the increasing urbanisation of society, EU directives that will force dramatic reductions in CO2 in the near and long-term future, the development of ‘Smart systems’ whereby transport technology will be integrated with consumer electronics so that real-time communication is possible and government policy that drives a more sustainable transport agenda.
 
But more than any policy or legislation, the environmental agenda is being driven by consumers who ultimately want to reduce their carbon footprint and want the products they buy to reflect this same principle.
 
We have a natural advantage in this country. Our commuter routes are short because of our size so that when short range electric vehicles become a viable option for mass transport – we will be able to move quickly. We also have excellent academic centres collaborating with the corporate sector – Mitsubishi being one to give a specific example.
 
We are looking at a situation in the not too distant future of electric cars being in many homes with in-home charging points being the goal of politicians, engineers and many entrepreneurs and multi-nationals.
 
We want to translate these broad ideas that into specific opportunities for Irish researchers and companies.
 
I just hope they build the electric cars strong enough to survive the rural roads of Tipperary. Might be a bit of work there yet.  
 
II.         Market in UK & Western Europe
 
Now it is estimate that the global market for sustainable mobility will be €300 billion in 2020 – an increase of €100 billion on today. You can understand why businesses and Government’s want to switch to smarter, greener transport.
Reduced congestion and quicker, more predictable, journey times deliver clear economic benefits – this is pure common sense and is hardly open to challenge.  Notwithstanding this we need to push the boundaries of our thinking about urban freight deliveries – and it’s heartening to see Dublin City Council’s recent attempts to pioneer a bicycle based cargo delivery service in the inner city area.
 
Similarly, if people think that the possibilities of making a switch to active travel modes are limited, let me put this in the context of current travel patterns in Dublin City.  Some 40% of daily journeys into the city centre are less than 5 kilometres.  This sort of distance is eminently suited to travel by bike or, for many, on foot. 
 
If we are to promote realistic alternatives to cars, then we to ensure that our modes of transport are smartly integrated to provide ease of use to switching between efficient modes of travel – From rail to bus to bike to luas and back again.
  
Travel delays cost urban economies huge sums of money in terms of list time and lost competitiveness. The additional carbon created just by traffic delays alone costs the UK approximately £4 billion pounds per annum while the health costs from air quality and inactivity are obvious to all.
 
There is clear economic potential both in Ireland and in the rest of Europe for technology that combats these social and economic problems. This will need the right technological support and the development of integrated intelligent transport systems – ITS.
 
This is being promoted at European level and to just give a small example of what is being done in this country, adaptive urban traffic control technology – SCATS by Dublin City Council, real time bus information, demand management technologies, apps that will follow your bus and train route, integrated ticketing.
 
The European Commission estimates that ITS can reduce both traffic congestion and road accidents by up to 15% and achieve a 20% reduction in carbon emissions.
 
I suppose the purpose of today’s conference is to explore ways that Irish companies can become exploit opportunities in this wave of new transport technology.
 
What we want is to be able to position ourselves to be leaders in that market and to exploit the opportunities that present themselves for the economic benefit of this country.
 
III.        The need for green transport in the EU
 
We should remember that over 13% of a household’s budget is spent on transport goods and services while in Europe we own one-third of the world’s car fleet with 750 million cars.
 
Transport in Europe is 96% based on oil and oil products for its energy bills and that results in an EU oil import bill of €210 billion. Transport is responsible for about a quarter of EU greenhouse gas emissions which are mostly generated by road transport, over 70% with aviation and maritime counting for most of the rest. Cars account for 72% of all EU passenger journeys will policy makers desperate for solutions to change this – the market options are open.
 
Green technology offers huge commercial opportunities. Cutting emissions means investing in technology but Europe has lagged behind in certain fields such as hybrid cars.  
 
However in saying this, the market for environmental technologies is growing rapidly and is expected to reach €3 100 billion by 2020. This is being driven by consumers. Two-thirds of car-users have signalled a willingness to reduce car size and range of travel in order to reduce emissions. Most, 60%, say they are willing to pay more for their cars if this helps reduce emissions.
 
There is major potential for reducing emissions with navigation devices which can make car journeys shorter and improve overall traffic flow when integrated with “live” transport systems. Researchers for TomTom found km savings per journey of 6-16% and time savings of 11-18% for use live ‘sat nav’ across Europe. With 40 million sat nav users across Europe this could represent a saving of 10 million hours of traffic and 100 million vehicle km.
 
Similarly, by improving electro-mobility we can reap benefits. Today’s electric care would need a battery pack weighing 2500 kilos to provide the same energy as a diesel car with a 50 litre tank. Developing road transport infrastructure would require an estimated €80-€140 billion.
 
I believe it is true to say that the real jobs that lie in the field of smarter travel will come by achieving a change of mind-set that persuades citizens that there are viable to alternatives to car. Companies that can facilitate this will be rewarded by the market – I have no doubt about that. 
 
 IV.       General Irish Economy
 
So that sets the scene in terms of the opportunities to exploit. I hope in my capacity as Minister for Public Transport & Commuter Policy and former Member of the European Parliament, to be able to support the opportunities presented there in.
 
On the economy overall, without getting too much into the politics of it – it is essential that this country holds onto and creates what I term primary jobs. These are the jobs that are created by hard work and smart thinking, innovatively creating a product, finding a market for it abroad and selling it on for a profit. We have to wean ourselves away from the property and construction mind-set that brought us to where we are. Separate from the field of transport we need to understand the types of jobs we want to create and to come up with a working definition of the term ‘smart economy’ rather than just talk about it as an abstract concept that nobody disagrees with.
 
In that regard Enterprise Ireland is among our most important state agencies. I welcome the words of the EI CEO who says that by the end of this year we will be exporting more than we ever did in the history of this state.  
 
Today’s conference is one example of the drive to look beyond traditional boundaries and develop new partnerships – to innovate, in other words.
 
“Trading and Investing in a Smart Economy”, the Strategy and Action Plan for Irish Trade, Tourism and Investment to 2015 sets the challenging target of €17bn in exports by indigenous industry by the end of 2015.
 
Increasing exports is critical to achieving this. Our ability to respond effectively to meet demand in overseas markets will result in employment and wealth creation in Ireland.
 
Creating momentum around the sustainable transport industry in Ireland and positioning Ireland as a thought leader in this field has the potential for job creation across many sectors and parallel industries.
 
This is a realistic goal for several reasons – not least the corporate framework that exists to support businesses. The World Bank currently ranks Ireland as the 9th best place in the world to do business and as the 11th best country in the world for starting a business. 
 
Ireland has a higher proportion of established entrepreneurs than Germany (4%) the UK (6.1%) and the US (8.3%) and about the same level as Finland; (9.2%)
 
Ireland’s research, development and innovation sector is driven by an exceptional level of collaboration between industry, academia, government agencies and regulatory authorities – many of whom are represented here today.
 
While problems remain, I believe that despite our tight resources, we understand now more than ever the type of support the entrepreneurial community needs and we stand ready and willing to help. 
 
While we are nowhere close to where we want to be in terms of competitiveness and generating wealth, the outlook is more positive now than at any point over the past three years, and Irish companies are using this renewed confidence to aggressively target opportunities in international markets.
 
More and more we need to drive a ‘lean’ agenda to increase productivity and to drive down costs. Enterprise Ireland are doing terrific work in this regard but more needs to be done.
 
Seed funding is available which can be matched with private funds and the market for equity financing for start-ups is improving. A single European private equity market was something that I discussed at great lengths in Europe and I will continue to do that from Government.
 
Today’s conference can be seen as the first step towards similar events in the future being run as part of Ireland’s goal to become a leading player in sustainable transport technology & infrastructure.
 
Now is the time for companies within Ireland to act and take advantage of this movement, backed by the EU – opportunities will now start to grow year on year and this relatively new industry will be with us for the long term!
 
As a final word, I sincerely hope this is not the last event of this type and I hope to remain in contact with the Irish companies trying to forge ahead with transport technology and perhaps by working closely together real and substantial benefits can be achieved – because they are badly needed.
Ends
 
 

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