How to better integrate sustainable transport in the proposed Sustainable Development Goals and targets

Shanghai, China

The Partnership on Sustainable, Low Carbon Transport (SLoCaT) welcomes the progress made by the Open Working Group (OWG) of the UN General Assembly in developing proposals for a comprehensive set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  SLoCaT is grateful to see that earlier suggestions on e.g. road safety have now been integrated in a more comprehensive manner in the proposals of the co-chairs of the OWG made in preparation of the 12th OWG meeting (June 16-20, 2014), which for the first time lists 17 proposed SDGs supported by a wide range of targets. SLoCaT has sent a letter to OWG Co-Chairs and Member States presenting its views on the proposed goal and target structure.

In parallel to the OWG process the SLoCaT Partnership has initiated the development of a Results Framework on Sustainable Transport, which defines the 2030 vision of the Sustainable Transport community on what should be achieved in terms of improving rural, urban as well as national and regional access to goods, markets, jobs and services while minimizing the negative impacts on road safety, air pollution and climate change.  The SLoCaT Results Framework consists of 6 targets (3 on access and 3 on negative externalities) supported by a series of indicators.

Mainstreaming of Sustainable Transport in SDGs

The 7th session of the OWG recommended that there should not be a dedicated SDG on transport and that the cross-sectoral nature of transport is best served by integrating transport in a range of SDGs.  SLoCaT welcomes in this context the proposals of the co-chairs, which include key elements of sustainable transport in 8 out of the 17 proposed SDGs and adresses all the six targets of the proposed SLoCaT Results Framework.

While supporting the proposed mainstreaming of sustainable transport across the proposed SDGs; SLoCaT would like to emphasize the importance of maintaining the proposed SDG on Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements. If it were decided to mainstream the cities and human settlements SDG into other SDGs like energy, water, health or education, it would become very difficult, if not impossible, for the transport sector to take meaningful guidance from the SDG framework in the development of the transport sector.

Transport is as much about services as it is about infrastructure

An area of concern is that many of the references in the SDGs and target proposals refer to the realization of infrastructure, while limited or no references are being made to transport services, including no mention of rural transport services. This is in contrast with the growing consensus in the transport and development community (as documented in the SLoCaT Results Framework) that it is the improved transport services (and not the transport infrastructure as such) that will generate most of the developmental impact required to realize elimination of poverty; the overarching theme of the post 2015 sustainable development framework.  Transport infrastructure is a necessary but not sufficient condition for sustainable development.

A secondary area of concern is the omission to make specific references to the importance of freight transport. It is increasingly clear that freight transport including freight for small-scale farmers is of key importance in realizing sustainable transport.