Four things not to miss in shaping the new Global Action Agenda for Transport

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At the recent Climate Action 2016 Summit, several key stakeholders joined the World Bank Group in a call for global and more concerted action to address the climate impact of transport, while ensuring mobility for everyone. In a month from now, the High-Level Advisory Group on Sustainable Transport, which was established by the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon for three years, will release its conclusions on what actions are needed to support “more sustainable transport systems”. This will lay the ground for the first UN Global Conference on Sustainable Transportation on November 26-27, 2016, in Ashgabat. As the HLAP is finalizing its report, here are four things that the new Global Action Agenda should not miss:
  1. A clearly articulated vision for the transport sector is a “must.” This vision should reflect the evolving nature of the sector—from a sector defined by the “provision of infrastructure” to the “delivery of services that facilitate the movement of goods and people.” But this physical (or virtual) mobility should not be achieved at any cost. This vision should also be consistent with a vision of the future laid out in the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Climate Agreement; it should also be goal-centric. Several efforts are currently under way in the international community to lay out this narrative. At the end of the day, they should all converge to bring coherence in this sector.

  2. Bold actions are required to address the scale and scope of issues. By 2030, there will be more than 8.5 billion people on earth, and aspirations for mobility will continue to rise. Passenger traffic, for example, is expected to exceed 80,000 million passenger kilometers—a 50% increase. Freight volume is expected to grow by more than 70%. In spite of efforts by all actors in this space, they have been insufficient to generate the scale and focus to transform the world’s mobility.

  3. Accountability and transparency of the sector is long overdue. Transport has lagged behind other sectors such as Water and Energy in terms of goals, indicators and data. The numerous global commitments recently made on mobility—for example, the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Climate Agreement, and the UN Decade of Action on Road Safety—are bringing urgency on the need to accelerate efforts in this area. Early thinking is under way to develop a rigorous global tracking framework for transport. This should be implemented as a truly multi-stakeholder initiative.

  4. The governance structure will become of paramount importance. So far, the sector has been operating on the basis of individual commitments. For example, at least five different groups of actors-- countries, transportation companies, cities, voluntary initiatives, and  multilateral development banks—have made commitments to reducing Greenhouse gas emissions. How do these actions add up? Will they be sufficient to meet the Paris target? Some have argued that a new global governance structure is needed to create a coherent approach towards sustainable transport systems. Useful lessons can be learnt from existing models—such as UN Water, UN Energy, or Sustainable Energy for All— or alterative models such as multi-stakeholder partnerships or coalitions (with non-UN actors) may be considered.
As leading minds in transport and international development meet next week in Manila at the ADB Transport Forum, two topics are already galvanizing the energy and defining the event: accountability with data and governance. The Global Action Agenda for transport is shaping rapidly.


Nancy Vandycke

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

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