Partnership on Sustainable Low Carbon Transport

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Opening Perspectives

As the COP 20 field makes its final push to the finish line, the SLoCaT Partnership is breaking camp in Lima and packing up to return to our respective corners of the world. 

In this final posting on COP 20 and its relevance to the transport sector, we take a last look at the five areas that we have been tracking over the last 10 days: pre-2020 ambition, INDCs, NAMAs, CTCN, and climate finance. We set out to determine whether Lima limped or leaped from the transport sector’s perspective, but we note that in many of these areas it is still too close to call. We are issuing this final posting with the hope that some Parties may draw inspiration from our analysis during the final sprint to Friday evening. 

Pre-2020 Mitigation Ambition

The understanding of the transport sector on mitigation potential has made some tangible leaps since COP 19, with the release of a series of more detailed modeling studies on the mitigation potential of the transport sector that were presented in the margins of COP 20 by IEA, ITDP and ITF. The appreciation of mitigation potential was also enhanced by the five voluntary commitments in the land transport sector that were announced at the Secretary General’s Climate Summit in September.  In these postings we have also noted several near-term mitigation actions, specifically through t-NAMA development of in Peru, Indonesia, and Colombia, along with two transport projects in implementation in South Africa and Mexico, and other projects in the t-NAMA pipeline.

At the formal level, COP 20 has seen some notable limping in the fact that we have witnessed few additional transport specific commitments from national and subnational entities during the course of the last two weeks in Lima, and in the fact that progress at the UNFCCC level continues to be dogged by a lack of consensus in crucial areas that could help to accelerate pre-2020 action (e.g. impasses on climate finance, constrained sectoral focus under the CTCN program).  Further progress in this area is essential to avoid a high-carbon lock-in effect for transport infrastructure and services, particularly in rapidly motorizing countries, before a post-2020 mitigation regime takes hold.

A crucial question over the next 12 months will be whether we can translate modeled mitigation potential by external groups and the SG’s land transport commitments to national statements on transport’s role in pre-2020 mitigation ambition as well as resulting sustainable transport policies and implementation strategies.  The SG’s Office, along with the governments of France and Peru, can do much to help carry the transport commitments from the 2014 Climate Summit forward. 

For the moment, we reserve judgment and the race on pre-2020 ambition could go in any direction.

Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs)

INDCs are an important step forward in documenting mitigation potential. The draft ADP text has encouraging language specifying “quantified, economy-wide, absolute emission limitation or reduction targets in relation to a baseline year”, which by definition would require a real contribution from transport.  The development of transport components of INDCs can benefit from the modeling efforts described previously and a growing pipeline of NAMAs, which can both help to fuel the budding INDC framework.  Forward leaps for INDCs will depend on the extent to which language in this area specifies clear sectoral breakdowns – including transport – to avoid a free-rider situation in which each sector looks to the others to shoulder the mitigation load.  Though an early ADP Workstream 2 negotiating draft specifically states that developing countries are to prepare and develop “sectoral mitigation plans and strategies,” it remains to be seen whether this language can sustain its momentum to the finish tape, specifically in the context of INDCs.

We should keep in mind that INDCs are specifying post-2020 mitigation potential, which is still five years away. Transport is still developing quickly in most of the non-Annex 1 countries, and it is challenging to forecast 2020-2025 transport mitigation ambition for a sector that is developing as rapidly as the transport.  In addition, climate change mitigation actions in the transport sector can be more difficult to pin down than in competing sectors, and thus it is important to ensure that transport does not get left out of the action in the face of an ongoing lack of clarity on MRV.  The MRV process is complicated by a funding paradox: if emission reductions are not measured, they will not be reported, and if they are not reported, then mitigation strategies can’t be funded. 

Since INDCs occupy the other side of the coin with pre-2020 ambition, it is essential for transport that INDC development is engaged with strategies to define pre-2020 ambition, to avoid the lock-in effects mentioned previously, and to set a proper trajectory for post-2020 sustainable transport infrastructure and services.  And perhaps most importantly, INDCs have a high limping potential as they are a fundamental instrument for the post-2020 process that must be submitted within the next six months under a very tight timeline.  In short, the bar for INDCs has been set exceedingly high.

Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs)

Though SLoCaT was initially skeptical of the future role of NAMAs coming into COP 20, it is clear from discussions in both formal sessions and side events that the international community is not giving up on this mechanism. COP 20 has seen the announcement of a transport NAMA in Peru, supported by the NAMA facility. As previously noted, NAMAs are viewed as an accessible entry point for near-term mitigation actions, and they are a source of optimism for making these actions more tangible.  And certainly, the greatest leap forward for NAMAs during the course of COP 20 is their growing importance for the INDC development projects that will define a more comprehensive mitigation ambition in the post-2020 period. 

Where the rubber meets the road, however, NAMAs continue to limp along in the transport sector.  To reiterate, t-NAMAs have not achieved transformational change due to constrained funding, limited MRV capacities, and ad hoc placement within the COP structure.  While NAMA registration is increasing, more action is required from the UNFCCC to increase matches between recipient and donor Parties. And although the NAMA Registry was adopted at COP 18 Doha, currently only two transport projects are in implementation, and there is an ongoing lack of clarity on the funding strategy to move the substantial number of t-NAMAs from the pipeline to the implementation stage. 

Moving forward, it is essential to make a marked shift from project NAMAs to policy NAMAs, as a programmatic approach is required to achieve more transformational near-term impacts, particularly within the transport sector.  Positive examples of this approach can be seen in Colombia’s Low Carbon Development Strategy, which defines low carbon development action plans for transport and five other sectors and implements training program of NAMAs at a sectoral level. Another key example is Mexico’s Federal Mass Transit Program (PROTRAM), through which the federal government is making sustainable transport a key element in developing more human centered cities. 

In conclusion, while NAMAs are still being embraced by countries to shape mitigation ambition, which would justify a careful ‘Lima leaps’ label, discussions at COP 20 on NAMAs, MRV and finance have stalled, forcing us to pronounce a qualified ‘Lima limps’ verdict for NAMAs.

Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN)

During COP 20, CTCN may be distinguished as the stream with the greatest leaping potential. Through CTCN and SCF, the Technology Mechanism and Financial Mechanisms are developing stronger linkages, which are expected to be more thoroughly defined in time for COP 21.  Under CTCN, climate technologies are defined as any equipment, technique, or knowledge to reduce GHG emissions or adapt to climate change, and CTCN provides technical assistance and capacity building to developing countries, a more comprehensive approach than SCF is taking at present. Finally, when CTCN issued a call for requests earlier this year, Bhutan proposed a project that aims to reduce GHG emissions by improving public transport through advanced technology applications, blazing a path for more projects of this type.  

However, CTCN is limping in the sense that it has yet to scale up its impact and effect transformational change due to limited granting amounts for technical assistance. More troubling is the fact that CTCN continues to focus the bulk of its attention on a particular set of sectors at the expense of others, with current priority given to energy efficiency and renewable energy, and with a potential focus on sustainable transport to begin in 2016, which is not soon enough to begin funding transport technologies that are most likely to establish low-carbon pathways.

It appears that the time for picking winners is over, and CTCN needs to quickly adopt an approach that gives equal access to all major contributing sectors to GHG emissions.  In the transport sector, this will help to avoid further lock-in effects, especially in rapidly motorizing countries, and to establish the most effective transport technology solutions for the post-2020 period. 

In sum, though we see leaping potential, at present CTCN-TEC is still limping.

Standing Committee on Finance (SCF)

SCF’s leaps have been very limited so far in COP 20.  There is measured movement toward the concrete target of mobilizing $10 billion initial contribution for the Green Climate Fund (GCF) with additional contributions of $165 million and $62 million from Australia and Belgium respectively, and additional contributions may be mobilized before the COP is up due to international pressure.  SCF is developing a more balanced approach to mitigation and adaptation funding, which may help to break through the financing deadlocks that continue to divide developed and developing countries.  Finally, as noted in the previous section, anticipated stronger linkages between the Technology and Financial Mechanisms are cause for some optimism. 

Yet, for SCF, as one leg leaps, the other limps.  First, despite well-meaning steps from Parties at COP 20, targeted 2020 GCF capitalization of $100 billion annually remains 90% short of the mark as the climate clock keeps ticking.  To put this in perspective, the planned expansion of the Lima Metro would consume well over 50% of the existing GCF pie over the next 5 years, if it were to be funded by climate finance alone.  Furthermore, SCF continues to stress in the second version of Elements for a Negotiating Text that “public sources are the main sources of finance,” which appears naïve as public sector funding is unlikely to be sufficient to fund a required incremental sustainable transport investment of $3 trillion in the 2015-2035 period. 

To get back on track, SCF will need to think more honestly about its ability to use its limited funding to leverage the trillions that are needed. It will need to give greater attention to enabling blended funding with much greater involvement from private sector funding, including institutional investors. This can also enable the much-needed shift away from a project-driven approach toward a more programmatic approach. In this context, discussions at the Third Conference on Financing for Development next July in Addis Ababa may bear more fruit for the transport sector than dialogue this month in Lima.  SCF will have to kick things into gear very quickly in order to declare victory at COP 20, as the finish line looms large.

Closing Thoughts

As SLoCaT departs the COP 20 site for the last time, we are reflecting upon several issues that will require further attention in the days and months leading up to COP 21. 

First, we would like to reiterate our concern about proposed revisions to the ADP draft regarding the role of non-state actors within the UNFCCC framework. The latest draft, if advanced, would significantly reduce the clout of the sustainable transport community – including a large majority of SLoCaT members – to engage in the UNFCCC process.  

Second, we would like to stress the need for UNFCCC to ensure that all sectors can contribute equitably to mitigation efforts to their fullest potential, and that efforts to encourage efforts in one sector do not come at the expense of another.  This point is essential to allow the sustainable transport community to help reduce the roughly one quarter of global emissions that arise from transport, in order to meet a 2DC target. 

Third, we would like to caution the UNFCCC on the danger of taking insular approaches to addressing climate change.  In particular, the UNFCCC was developed in the context of sustainable development, but there has been a lack of evidence at COP 20 that the link between climate change and sustainable development is being taken seriously. Transport would gain from additional attention to development co-benefits as significant drivers of climate policy.

Fourth, we would suggest that UNFCCC also continues to approach climate finance in an insular manner, with too much emphasis placed on mobilizing a relatively limited amount of climate funding ($10 billion before 2020) while the need for transformational investments for the transport sector approaches $3 trillion for the 2015-2035 period. This on top of the annual $1-2 trillion required as baseline investments for land transport.   The climate finance scope should be broader and should have a broader focus on reorienting both public sector funding (e.g. fuel subsidies) and private sector funding (e.g. institutional investors).

Finally, we would like to apologize for our own limited focus on climate change adaptation in the course of our COP 20 postings.  SLoCaT recognizes that resilience is crucial for transport systems to maintain reliability and increase ridership, and thus to meet their full mitigation potential.  In a nutshell, transport systems must adapt to mitigate, and climate adaptation SLoCaT hopes to contribute work in this area in 2015.

As we say farewell to COP 20 and Lima, we are hopeful that the final results will allow the transport sector to leap into the final heat, even if the race comes down to the wire.  And as we look ahead to 2015, we are hopeful that the transport glass will continue to fill en route to COP 21 and Paris.


We would like to express our gratitude to those who have contributed to the Transport at COP 20 daily postings, which were developed under the direction of Cornie Huizenga, with Karl Peet as lead author, and the following individuals as contributors: Heather Allen, Ramon Cruz, Xtabai Padilla, Carlosfelipe Pardo, Michael Replogle, Liz Vargas, and Alice Yiu. We would like to thank Talya Enriquez Romano, Shafiq Rahman, and Yorgos Voukas for disseminating our postings. 

A more complete report on Transport at COP 20 is planned for release by 12 January 2015.

Please contact Karl Peet ( with comments or questions









Please contact Karl Peet ( with comments or questions

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