PPMC Dialogue with Asian Countries Confirms Need for Accelerated Action on Transport and Climate Change

On November 18, The Partnership on Sustainable Low Carbon Transport (SLoCaT), on behalf of the Paris Process on Mobility and Climate (PPMC), led a regional dialogue on transport and climate change at the United Nations Centre for Regional Development (UNCRD) Ninth Regional Environmentally Sustainable Transport (EST) Forum in Asia. Country-level participation included representatives from the 24 EST participating countries, as well as representatives from Central Asian and South Pacific countries.

Welcoming remarks were delivered by Mr.Gajendra Kumar Thakur, MoPIT Nepal, who stated that sharing international experiences in transport is essential, and highlighted low carbon measures in Nepal (e.g. electric-three wheelers; large public buses, a proposed metro system, and a planned national railway). He stressed that Nepal must increase resilience of transport systems to floods and landslides. Mr. Peter Hefele, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, stated that COP21 can create new alliances to emphasize transport’s contribution to a low carbon economy and to give the Asia region a stronger voice on transport in global processes. He stressed that we must to adopt innovative models to further Asian cooperation on transport and climate change.

In the interactive session, two presentations framed key topics for transport and climate change. SLoCaT presented an overview of transport emissions trends in the EST region, an analysis of transport measures in Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), and a description of SLoCaT analytical tools to support detailed implementation plans. The presentation showed that EST BAU transport emissions could increase 140% by 2030, but there is great potential for low carbon solutions. In addition, countries have not optimized mitigation potential within INDCs, and it is important to increase attention to adaptation, which lags behind mitigation. EST member questions focused on whether low-carbon transport measures will be sufficient to achieve a 1.5 to 2 degree scenario, and whether INDCs are sufficiently flexible to capture country-specific adaptation needs.

Panelists taking questions at the 9th regional EST forum

GIZ focused on climate change mitigation for transport in the ASEAN region. Several challenges were presented, which include policies supporting motorization over mobility and access, and limited mandates from MoTs for implementation over policy. Successes were also noted, including proposed fuel economy standards in ASEAN countries, car labeling in Vietnam and Thailand; CO2-based taxation in Thailand, and e-bikes in Vietnam and Malaysia. The presentation concluded that international fora present key opportunities for policy sharing, and the need to draw upon transport measures considered in creating INDCs. EST member questions focused on how to increase coordination among ministries (noting successes in Vietnam), how to raise social status of efficient transport modes, and how to balance emissions and motorization needs (noting that low carbon transport, means more intelligent transport, not less transport).

A facilitated discussion considered six key messages on transport and climate change that will be part of the PPMC “We Are Transport” campaign, to be launched next week in support of the PPMC advocacy towards COP21. Transport produces a quarter of global GHG emissions, and thus holds responsibility for a quarter of the solutions, which may be difficult to do if key delegates are not at the table.

Is decarbonisation of the transport sector a realistic long-term option for Asia?

Low-carbon transport means halving emissions from transport sector by 2050. While some noted that we must be ambitious, it was noted that many countries may struggle to achieve this goal. Although many experts are focused on low-carbon transport, political leaders are still warming to this approach (noting successes in South Korea and China). While cars are seen as prestigious in the Asia Pacific region, young people in Europe show growing focus on balance mobility options. Renewable energy can reduce transport emissions, and Bhutan supplies 100% hydropower. The vehicle industry and wealth management industry are revising business models, acknowledging that achieving a 2 degree scenario will require leaving fossil fuel resources in the ground.

Climate resiliency (adaptation) in the transport sector in Asia is an immediate priority

90% of the world’s population lives on coastal plains or near waterways, and thus adapting transport networks to a new climate is a crucial issue, as mitigation alone will be insufficient. The knowledge base on adaptation is generally less developed than mitigation, and countries are also giving less attention to adaptation in INDCs. However, high-speed rail in Japan proved to be more resilient than conventional rail after its 2011 earthquake. Bangladesh has begun to include adaptation measures into cross-sectorial planning processes, and Maldives is incorporating climate-resilient design into coastal infrastructure. The construction and operation of transport infrastructure will determine its total resilience, and low-volume rural roads require focused engineering practices and sufficient maintenance, due to their vulnerability to extreme weather.

There are economy wide gains for Asia in shifting to low carbon sustainable transport

Transport is one of the most innovative and dynamic sectors in developing climate solutions, and the PPMC 80 Days Campaign highlights tangible strides toward low carbon transport solutions. Innovations are coming from both North and South, with BRT originating in Brazil and moving to the world, and creativity in the regional adoption of electric two-wheelers, buses, and zero-emission urban freight delivery. ICT innovations have led to proven reduction in transport emissions, and second-generation biofuels are providing important energy inputs. Regions such as ASEAN are sharing expertise to make freight more efficient and less costly. The UNFCCC provides funds for technology transfer through the CTCN, and initiatives such as the German Partnership for Sustainable Mobility are sharing innovative solutions in a number of countries.

Sustainable, low carbon transport improves connectivity, accessibility and social equity

Sustainable low carbon transport provides access to all without regard to social status, colour or creed. Increasing access also achieves co-benefits such as improving air quality; furthermore, connectivity and accessibility can address climate change by shifting travel behaviour. Low-carbon transport is not just for those countries that can afford it, and connectivity, accessibility and quality are needed to increase use of public transport in India. Extreme weather is an issue in up-scaling non-motorised transport, and Malaysia is connecting metro stations with neighbouring buildings to increase convenience. Affordability is also a critical element of accessibility, and safety is an essential component to achieve gender equality in countries such as India. Finally, it was noted that there is a need to provide transport access for all, at all times and in all seasons.

The adoption of low-carbon sustainable transport requires new business models

Financial solutions to low carbon pathways are available, and global transport infrastructure requires $2.5 trillion over 10 years (not including urban transport). There is no shortage of money (as markets have $50 trillion), but compelling propositions are needed to float bonds and create trust funds to complement government financing. Long-distance rail and waterway freight and urban transport will have highest returns, due to co-benefits. Climate finance is insufficient, as transport would get $8 billion per year from climate finance instruments based on a proportional share of emissions. While MDBs spend $25 billion annually on transport, they cover only 3-4 percent of investment needs; thus, public and private sector finance are needed (e.g. Bangladesh has developed a climate resilience fund through coordinated sectorial efforts).

Urgency: now is the time to take action on transport.

There was general consensus that now is the time to take bold action on transport. Urgency means government prioritisation of transport investments, and there is much progress to achieve in this regard. The Global Goals on Sustainable Development support adoption of sustainable transport options among UN ESCAP member states, and as INDCs will only take effect in 2020, pre-2020 action is also a necessary focus. We cannot wait until the next generation to take action, and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are pushing for less talk and more action. Ambitious action on transport and climate change is feasible now, and tomorrow may be one day too late