December 12, 2014

Moving Sustainable Transport into the Mainstream of Climate Policy

Transport Day 2014 Team Photo

For the past two weeks, nearly 12,000 people gathered at the 20th Conference of Parties (COP) for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), struggling to advance global action to address climate change. Along with thousands of government officials and representatives from the private sector and civil society, ITDP Managing Director for Policy and Founder Michael Replogle was in Lima to press for recognition that investments in sustainable transportation that improve equitable social and economic development can be among the least costly ways to reduce global warming pollution.

The Earth is warmer than ever this year, scientists tell us. Progress on a global agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions, especially carbon dioxide (CO2) was slow the past two weeks. But bottom-up actions by public transport authorities, railways, city leaders, and other transportation stakeholders continues to build momentum and demonstrates to national leaders that limiting emissions is not only possible but also supports sustainable development.

Credit: SLoCaT Parnership
Credit: SLoCaT Parnership

A recent ITDP report, A Global High Shift Scenario, was discussed at a number of meetings in Lima. It shows that by investing up front in public transportation, walking and cycling in cities, taxpayers and citizens could save over $100 trillion in transportation costs out to 2050 while cutting 1,700 megatons of annual carbon dioxide (CO2)—a 40 percent reduction of urban passenger transport emissions—by 2050. And that investment would triple public transport access of the world’s poorest 20%.

Throughout the COP, experts voiced concern that unless transportation is part of a new climate change agreement, it will be impossible to hold the global temperatures to less than the 2 degree rise that will cause dangerous changes in climate. Nearly a quarter of energy-related CO2 emissions are from transportation and these emissions are growing quickly.

Many efforts were featured in Lima that bring hope. ITDP is a strong supporter of the Partnership on Sustainable Low Carbon Transport (SLoCaT), which deployed a team of monitors to track the negotiations on a daily basis and worked to plan more effective engagement on the road to the 2015 Paris COP, when a new global climate agreement will be reached. SLoCaT noted,”Among efforts highlighted were national policies from Ethiopia to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025, and from Mexico to create more human-scaled cities; municipal plans from Lima to expand transit options, and from Paris to increase transit and NMT mode shares; and industry initiatives from Michelin to fund innovative mobility solutions, and from BSR to explore new transport fuels.”

Throughout the Conference, ITDP participated in a variety of transport related meetings and worked with SLoCaT to engage new partners and to mobilize action for sustainable transport finance and technology sharing:

Transport Day 2014

The 2014 Transport Day was the biggest ever, with over 200 participants. Attendees strategized to build momentum for including sustainable transport in the climate change solution agenda. Through discussions of financing, adaption, technology transfer and more, the full-day meeting laid a foundation for active engagement of industry, private sector, and government partners in voluntary actions by national parties to the Convention. The event is organized by the SLoCaT Partnership and the Bridging the Gap initiative.

Mitigation Potential of Urban Sustainable Low-Carbon Transport

At an official side-event organized by ITDP and the International Transport Forum (ITF)/ OECD, more than 100 participants joined to discuss how transportation can help policy makers meet their emissions reductions goals. The event explored technological advances that can further the development of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) and Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs).

Looking Ahead

Next year’s Conference of Parties will take place in Paris, France. The momentum generated in Lima and continuing efforts with SLoCaT partners make it more likely that transport will come into the mainstream of climate policy. But there is no time to waste. Motorization continues to grow in an unmanaged way in many countries. Far more must be done to move in the right direction, to spur new financing and institutional reforms, and to take to scale the city level best practices we know can secure a more sustainable future.

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