Italian minister pushes for greener transport

Conference hears call for technological innovation to help cut national carbon dioxide emissions

Technological innovation holds the key to cutting energy consumption, achieving sustainable traffic mobility and meeting Italy's 6.5% greenhouse gas emissions reduction target, the country's transport minister Tiziano Treu said on Friday. "Italy is not at the forefront of technological innovation," the minister told a conference. "This applies particularly to the transport sector, but also to the service sector in general. We need to liberalise but above all to innovate," he added.

"For this reason, for the first time, the budget contains a provision which allocates 1.1% of investments in the sector to transport research," the Minister continued. "Innovation is needed in building infrastructures. This is how to reduce pollution and make transport more environmentally sound and more cost-effective. This is what Italy needs."

Mr Treu was speaking at a national conference on transport organised in Rome by the Italy's national research council (CNR). The meeting was the culmination of two successive five-year research projects involving some euros 133m (IL257bn) of public and private investment. Speakers presented Italy's latest research findings on the future of transport on the next millennium to researchers, academics and representatives from government ministries, research institutions and the private sector.

A number of 'ecological' prototypes were unveiled at the conference, including electric cars and hybrid vehicles combining electric propulsion and internal combustion engine technology. Continuing research is needed to improve these experimental technologies, speakers said. Further research is also needed on new pollution-reducing public transport, such as "dial a bus," group taxis, and car-sharing.

"Traffic makes a significant contribution to environmental pollution. If Italy is to achieve the carbon dioxide emissions targets it agreed to under the UN climate convention in Kyoto, without worsening its present transport system, rapid innovation is needed in its management and in vehicle technology and control systems, " the conference's project director Ennio Cascetta said.

"Continuing research is also needed into the supply and demand for transport, which takes account of economic, social, legal and technical reality. This is the only way vehicles and fuels can be developed that conform to European and international standards, reduce energy consumption and pollution and achieve sustainable mobility," professor Cascetta added.

Follow Up:
Italian transport ministry, tel: +39 06 4410; CNR transport conference, tel: +39 06 445 7125.

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