Reshaping the policy agenda for sustainable mobility

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Bike commuter and tram. Photo: Connel/Shutterstock
Photo: Connel/Shutterstock

What sort of actions do countries and cities need to implement to attain sustainable mobility? This is exactly the question that SuM4All’s member organizations have been working on over the last 18 months. Coming up with a clear, comprehensive answer has not been easy. But with the help of 55 leading international transport organizations, 180 experts, 25 corporations, and more than 50 public decision-makers, the Sustainable Mobility for All coalition met its ambition: elaborating a Global Roadmap of Action Toward Sustainable Mobility (GRA); a report that represents the best knowledge that we have at our disposal on policies that can move mobility in a sustainable direction.    

The case for action

In 2017, the Global Mobility Report gathered data from around the world to assess the performance of the global transport sector across all modes. The verdict? Not a single country in the world—developed or developing— had achieved sustainable mobility. That is when we knew urgent action was needed.

The GRA will now help tackle the next logical question: what are the main actions and measures that policymakers can take to transform the future of mobility? To answer this, the report—which is scheduled to come out on October 23, 2019—will focus on concrete solutions tailored to the specific context and challenges of each country.

Let’s break it down!

Sustainable mobility is defined by four policy goals:  accessibility, efficiency, safety and green mobility. There are many factors that can influence how a country performs against each of these four goals, from the political economy context to financing, technological progress, public partnership with the private sector, and close collaboration between transport and energy.

Taking all these dimensions into account, the GRA proposes a comprehensive policy framework of more than 180 policy measures that both developed and developing countries can draw on. The GRA addresses questions like:

  • What policy measures have been tested around the world and are worth replicating?
  • What is the expected impact of each of these policy measures on sustainable mobility?
  • How can these policy measures be prioritized into a manageable set of policy measures that are most impactful and relevant to each country?
  • How can we countries chart a roadmap of action to attain sustainable mobility over time?

The GRA report is complemented by six policy papers, each looking at one specific policy goal: accessibility (including universal urban access, universal rural access, and gender), efficiency, safety, and green mobility. An online tool for decision-makers will also be available on October 23, 2019 on the SuM4All website.  This interactive platform will allow users to visualize the performance of a country against each policy goal, and, based on the results, to develop custom action plans for sustainable mobility.

How will the GRA support countries to achieve sustainable mobility?

Good question! While the report lays out several general principles on sustainable mobility, one should take the reality of each country into account and provide recommendations that make sense in the local context. To address this need, the GRA looks to support countries in their transition toward sustainable mobility through a three-step process:

  1. Diagnostic. Using SuM4All’s Assessment Tools, this first step aims to identify the main gaps and challenges that undermine sustainable mobility in a particular country.
  2. Policy Measures. Following the diagnostic phase, identify which policy measures are most relevant to the situation of a country.
  3. Roadmap of action. Establish a roadmap of action to implement the proposed measures. That involves a series of prototype action plans to be rolled out over time depending on the pace of progress.

Why does this matter?

The current mobility system takes a heavy toll on the planet and leaves many people behind. In most cases, it is also expensive, inefficient, and unsafe. As the demand for mobility soars to an all-time high—spurred by population growth, economic development, and urbanization—the world’s mobility challenges will keep piling up, unless policymakers take quick and bold action to put the sector on a more sustainable trajectory.

This is about more than moving people and goods from A to B. Transport is a fundamental underpinning of development, which means better mobility will have a positive impact on multiple areas ranging from economic growth to social inclusion, human development, public health, the environment, political stability, etc.

The case for sustainable mobility is clear, and the Global Mobility Report served as an important wake-up call to policymakers and development partners. The GRA will soon give them the guidance they need to act upon this and turn the vision into reality.


Nancy Vandycke

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

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