En route to COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh: What is next for transport and development?

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Photo: © Ink Drop/Shutterstock Photo: © Ink Drop/Shutterstock

The Sustainable Mobility for All (SuM4All) partnership will mark its five-year anniversary with the 12th Consortium meeting on February 15, 2022. This milestone takes place amidst much global uncertainty and tensions. Countries continue to endure the effects of the pandemic, while action on climate change has been slow and complex.

As countries try to find their way out of the pandemic and meet their climate ambition, two different visions are emerging:  countries eager to grow their economies for higher prosperity; and those searching to respond to the climate imperative while preserving their well-being. This policy dilemma is bound to impact policy and investment across many sectors, including transport.

As the world comes to terms with these challenges, how can we create a more sustainable future without exacerbating inequalities between developed and developing countries—especially when the latter are emitting relatively little CO2 but suffering disproportionately from the effects of climate change? What are the important issues that should be voiced at the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) in Egypt? And what are the implications for transport and mobility?

In this five-year long journey, we have learned three important lessons:

1. Consider all dimensions of sustainable mobility

Some countries are understandably skeptical about technological innovations that have been making headlines recently, in part because these solutions mostly rely on advanced, expensive technologies that are either not available or not financially viable in many parts of the world. COP27 presents an opportunity to rebalance and reframe the conversation. In particular, while the transition toward low-carbon transport is obviously a priority, we cannot forget about the other dimensions of sustainable mobility, including universal access, efficiency, and safety.  Solutions for the future will need to support - not restrict - access and economic development. This is an important concern for developing countries, which represent 80 percent of the existing global population. A just transition towards decarbonization will play a make-or-break role in the way forward.

2. Tailor solutions to the needs of each country

Each country has its own unique strengths and challenges. This means transport policy, including on decarbonization, should be realistic and tailored to the local context.  For example, 50 percent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to electricity to meet basic domestic needs. But 95 percent of low and middle-income countries have low-carbon intensity in electricity production giving plenty of potential space to enable electrification of transport.  In Laos, for example, we showed that electromobility makes environmental and business sense, but it is held back by an inability to access proper financing. How can we overcome these obstacles to ensure every country can achieve its full sustainable mobility potential?

3. Promote inclusivity and decarbonization jointly

Equity in transport has been an elusive goal. Often, the design of transport systems has left out many segments of the population, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.  To address this, universal access needs to become a key focus of transport policy, and decision-makers need to ensure that decarbonization strategies be designed with distributional implications in mind.  If their benefits (energy savings, time savings, reduced air pollution) are not shared across society, they could be outweighed by social costs (e.g., fewer people accessing transport because they cannot afford or are socially excluded and disenfranchised from the community, with low-carbon transport options that cater only to a few). By creating transport systems that are inclusive by design, we can avoid this scenario.

Since its first meeting of member organizations in Washington D.C., SuM4All has created a safe space to discuss the most salient issues in transport.  Its participatory and inclusive approach all along has enabled us to think and devise solutions to transport problems that are truly global. Amidst today’s global uncertainty, the SuM4All 12th Consortium Meeting once again offers that safe space for public and private stakeholders.

Don’t miss this opportunity to join the conversation and engage with a high-level panel on inclusive pathways toward sustainable mobility in a prelude to COP27 – register today.


Website: Sustainable Mobility for All (SuM4All)

Event: SuM4All 12th Consortium Meeting: En-route to Sharm El-Sheikh


Nancy Vandycke

Program Manager, Sustainable Mobility for All (SuM4All) and Lead Economist, World Bank

Gurpreet Singh Sehmi

Economist, Sustainable Mobility for All (SuM4All), World Bank

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