Accelerating Progress through Successful Partnership on Sustainable, Low Carbon Transport

The following article by Cornie Huizenga, Partnership on Sustainable, Low Carbon Transport and Michael Replogle, Institute for Transportation and Development Policy was featured in the Outreach MagazineStakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Future’s multi-stakeholder magazine on climate change and sustainable development

Since 2009, the Partnership on Sustainable, Low Carbon Transport (SLoCaT) has brought together key stakeholders to advance related best practices that enable sustainable development.  Collectively, the Partnership has helped raise awareness on the need for sustainable transport and demonstrated that sustainable transport is a viable and cost-effective option to improve access to goods and services in both urban and rural areas. 

Shutter Speed Transport

These advances on sustainable transport make it more likely that the world will realise an ambitious post-2015 agenda as envisaged by the Rio+20 outcome document and the UN Secretary-General’s High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post 2015 Development Agenda, both of which call for the eradication of absolute poverty and the creation of sustainable prosperity.

From its initiation, SLoCaT has set out to promote sustainable, low carbon transport and its integration in global policies on climate change and sustainable development.  These are both unfinished agendas but progress has been made. 

Previously, transport was almost entirely missing in the international climate negotiations and instruments established under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), such as the Clean Development Mechanism.  Through persistent outreach activities – Including those by the Bridging the Gap Initiative – the second largest sector for Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) submitted to UNFCCC or currently under development is now transport capacity building and pilot projects.  The share of transport activities funded under climate change focus area of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) is also increasing. 

SLoCaT’s efforts to influence global policies on sustainable development initially took a backseat compared to its efforts on climate change, however preparations for the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) provided a timely global platform to pursue this broader objective. By then, SLoCaT and its members had coalesced around a number of common messages on sustainable transport and SLoCaT helped convince the negotiating parties to expand coverage for sustainable transport and include it as a separate priority area for future action in the Rio+20 outcome document. SLoCaT worked with several of its members to develop a set of voluntary commitments on sustainable transport, including the unprecedented $175 billion commitment for more sustainable transport made by eight Multilateral Development Banks.  A forthcoming report by the Natural Resource Defense Council evaluating the implementation of the Rio+20 Voluntary Commitments concluded:  ‘The SLoCaT network is a model for other action networks because of its strategic vision and leadership that resulted in the major commitments on sustainable transportation at Rio+20. SLoCaT’s recently developed major financing structure and its intent to engage in the post-2015 development agenda to mobilise resources are encouraging signs of progress for sustainable transport.’

The past three years have driven the message home that it is neither desirable nor possible to separate the climate change dimension from the wider developmental impacts of transport.  Interventions to effectively address climate change in the transport sector require strategies that influence billions of actors – from vehicle manufacturers, fuel providers, and local governments and private operators providing transport infrastructure and services, to individual travelers and freight shippers. Climate-related policies and interventions in the transport sector usually have benefits other than greenhouse gas emission reductions, which almost always are more important in the eyes of decision makers than the climate change mitigation benefits. 

To ensure its continued relevance and effectiveness, SLoCaT is considering whether and how to develop its loose institutional structure into a more formal one, which might help it better keep pace with the growing attention to sustainable, low carbon transport in the developing world and the global community.