March 19, 2012

Event Recap: Sustainable Mobility on the Road to Rio+20

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On March 15, a panel of experts discussed the prospects of getting sustainable transport on the agenda in Rio and what civil society, business, and government can do to ensure a successful conference.

The panelists came from a diverse array of sectors. They included:
• Elizabeth Thompson, Executive Coordinator for UN CSD/Rio+2
• Polly Trottenberg, Undersecretary for Transportation Policy, USDOT
• Larry Gumbiner, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State
• Cornie Huizenga, Joint-Convener, Partnership for Sustainable Low Carbon Transport
• Marc Juhel, Transport Sector Manager, The World Bank
• Gordon Feller, Director of Urban Innovations, Cisco Systems
• Michael Replogle, Global Policy Director and Founder, Institute for Transportation and Development Policy

The panel was moderated by Carnegie Endowment Fellow Dan Sperling.

Forums by which the world comes together to collaborate and make commitments have been historically important. Recent research shows that global and national commitments can increase local coordination and reduce fragmentation in sector efforts; this is especially critical when all sectors at all geographic scales must participate to reduce GHG emissions.

However, recent international conferences have failed to produce binding commitments and actions for change. How can Rio+20 ensure commitments for change?  Has ‘global summit fatigue’ made making international agreements more difficult than before?

Transport is often addressed as part of urban sustainability and as part of energy sector policy, but couching it in these more general issues fails to show its overall importance and its centrality in keeping both the global and domestic economy moving. Sustainable transport is also an important way nations can reduce carbon emissions and also further longer-term economic and social benefits that are vital to our world’s rapidly urbanizing population.

There is a need to institutionalize a new paradigm in transportation and simultaneously lessen the global reliance on motorized transport. But how is this possible? Here are some of the most discussed issues from the Sustainable Mobility on the Road to Rio+20 panel.

Moving towards a binding agreement for transportation:

In the wake of ‘global summit fatigue’ are incremental and tactical bottom-up initiatives the way to lasting change? Or, are international conferences more important than we believe – inspiring global attention to issues that then fuel an increase in both international and domestic financing?

The role of the private sector:

The private sector has become increasingly skeptical of international agreements, persuading national leaders to change they way they operate; so there are more PPPs and private sector initiatives that fill funding gaps in transport.

Transportation as a development goal:

Transportation never makes headlines unless it breaks. Its origins as an engineer-led issue has largely prevented it from entering mainstream discussion.  One point of having it become a sustainable transport goal is that it will move transportation from being seen as purely, and perhaps too, technical and into the political discourse.

More Resources:
SLoCaT members
100 Days to Rio

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