On November 26, 2016, UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon will convene the first-ever Global Conference on Sustainable Transport, in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. What is at stake in this capstone two-day event? What fresh developments might it yield, and how might it change the dynamics for transport?
The new transport agenda. A number of earlier high-level events—including the UN Climate Action Summit, the OECD/International Transport Forum, and the Habitat III Conference—helped give a long-needed boost to the visibility of transport in the international arena in 2016. The events also helped position transport within the current set of global commitments that include the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris climate agreement, the Decade of Action on Road Safety, and the Habitat III New Urban Agenda. The forthcoming Ashgabat event will put front and center one simple notion: for the next 15 years, the transport agenda will be framed by that set of global commitments. The commitments define the space within which governments, international organizations, the private sector, and civil society will have to act on transport. And they will dictate the future size and direction of transport funding.
This is a paradigm shift. Previously, the transport agenda was defined by the goal of providing access to transport infrastructure. Under the new framework, the international community has committed itself to much more. First, the issue is no longer simply access but equitable access for all. Second, other, equally important objectives have been added, including the efficiency and reliability of mobility services, transport safety, and decarbonization. In sum, the internationally accepted transport agenda concerns more than economic and social development; it is also about being part of the climate change solution.