New UN study points to ways to create sustainable inland transport

According to a new study from the United Nations, Europe has managed to decouple the increase in motorisation and death on roads in the last several decades.

The new study “Transport for Sustainable Development – The case of Inland Transport” which has been launched today (23 February 2016) on the occasion of the 78th Annual Session of the Inland Transport Committee (ITC) was developed by the five Regional Commissions of the UN in cooperation with key inland transport stakeholders and spearheaded by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). The study examines issues, progress and challenges in global efforts to achieve the transition to sustainable inland mobility for both people and freight and is the first of this kind to take on a global perspective and examine best practices and challenges form every corner of the globe.

Among other findings, the study shows that some regions such as Latin America and Western Asia have managed to slow down the rate of increase of road fatalities in spite of an increase in the level of motorisation. However, most other regions of the world have experienced a simultaneous increase in both indicators. European experience however shows that decoupling between two trends is likely due to several factors, such as the strong embrace of road safety measures and their enforcement, coupled with uniform high safety regulations for cars and systematic education of drivers.

European countries were also able to reduce CO2 per capita emissions from transport in the decade 2001-2011, though they are responsible for roughly 50 per cent of the total emissions, so further progress is needed, according to the same study.

With the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the end of 2015, there has been another strong impetus to shift the transport sector towards a more sustainable model. This study identifies where the various regions of the world are at the beginning of the march towards Sustainable Development Goals for transport.

Transport is clearly indispensable for any society to grow economically and socially as well as to connect it with markets and the rest of the world. In order to achieve any sustainable development, the transport sector must be economically efficient, safe, secure and environmentally-friendly.

However, its obvious negative impacts such as road crashes, air and noise pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions, could be mitigated, as the study show-cases through a wealth of good and best practices. Furthermore, the study also identifies the main challenges and opportunities to accelerate transition to sustainability.

The in-depth study highlights the five defining dimensions of sustainable transport – accessibility, affordability, safety, security and environmental performance.

For example, accessibility and affordability of public transport allows people in rural and urban environments to access employment, education and medical services, thereby contributing to the stability of the economic and social environment and allowing for growth. A lack of access to passenger or freight transport isolates individual sections of society creating and perpetuating stagnation and desolation.

The study looks at theoretical insights and best practices from all regions of the world mapping similarities and differences among countries of different income groupings and geographical regions in their efforts to create more sustainable transport sector. A common element globally is that transport is central in shifting to sustainable low carbon societies but a high level of political will is needed to decouple its growth from impacts like air pollution, traffic accidents and climate change.

This study, which is now available online on the UNECE web site, is the result of cooperation among the five Regional Commissions of the United Nations, i.e. ECA, ECE, ECLAC, ESCAP, ESCWA and key global stakeholders, particularly, the International Road Transport Union (IRU) and the International Union of Railways (UIC). It also benefited from case study contributions by Communications Company Kapsch.

(Source: UNECE)

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