Time for the UN Member States to deliver a transformation of urban mobility

Time for the UN Member States to deliver a transformation of urban mobility-otherwise we face a future of growing urban congestion, pollution and social inequality.

SURABAYA, INDONESIA, (25th July, 2016)

The UN Member States have already acknowledged, on a number of occasions (see background below) the need for action on sustainable transport. Cities, large parts of the transport industry, as well as the broader transport and development community are ready to act. “The missing link for the broad transformation of urban mobility is the necessary support by National Governments, who need to step up and deliver the necessary coordination, leadership and resources to enable cities to deliver — before it’s too late”, says Cornie Huizenga, Secretary General, Secretary General, Partnership on Sustainable, Low Carbon Transport. 

To cope with the additional 2.3 billion people expected to be living in urban areas by 2050 and the rising demand for transport per person, large increases in urban transport infrastructure and services will be required. Yet, urban transport systems are already under pressure, with many urban areas experiencing growing levels of congestion, road deaths and injuries, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. This is why the New Urban Agenda, the outcome document of the Habitat III conference will need to kick-start a rapid transformation in urban mobility systems and investment in cities across the world. “The multilateral development banks (MDBs) are committed to supporting investments in sustainable urban mobility, but for projects to be bankable we need the right national and local policies and plans to be in place, and that will require more technical assistance for building capacity and scaling up investment project preparation,” says Tyrrell Duncan, Technical Advisor (Transport), Asian Development Bank and Chairman MDB Working Group on Sustainable Transport.

The New Urban Agenda should lead to dramatically improved urban mobility so everyone has safe, affordable access to all the great opportunities of urban life, particularly the disadvantaged groups.

The latest draft of the New Urban Agenda recognizes the contribution of urban mobility to sustainable cities but to help realize that improved urban mobility so everyone has safe, clean and affordable access to all the great opportunities of urban life the following aspects need to be strengthened:

  • Climate change – Greenhouse gas emissions from urban transport are growing fast, and will continue to do so because of urban growth and economic prosperity. The NUA needs to more actively consider the outcome of the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change and in order to realize the agreed upon target of temperature increase of well below 2 Degrees Celsius urban transport will have to well on its way to be decarbonized by 2036, the time of the Habitat IV Conference. The NUA needs therefore to include more definite targets on transport and climate change and commit to delivering the necessary policies, planning, design and investment.  Increased efforts on transport and climate change will also benefit urban air quality as vehicles are in many cities an important source of air pollution.
  • Road Safety – 1.3 million people are killed on the roads every year and tens of millions more are injured in avoidable road collisions with a growing burden upon pedestrians, cyclists, children and other vulnerable road users in cities. Road traffic injury is already the leading global killer of children aged 10 and over. As the world urbanizes the risk is that urban traffic related fatalities and injuries will rise further, disproportionally affecting disadvantaged groups such as the poor and youth unless action is taken.  “The New Urban Agenda must recognize the contribution of transformed urban mobility to protect the vulnerable and improve the quality of life in our cities. As one key priority, every child should be provided with a safe and healthy journey to school. The international community must rise to the challenge for the future of our cities. Millions of lives and livelihoods are at stake, we cannot afford to fail.” says Avi Silverman, Deputy Director, FIA Foundation
  • Active Mobility – Better planned and designed cities and a transformed urban mobility system can make a major contribution to the massive expansion of active modes of transport such as walking and cycling – these bring a wide range of health, social, economic and environmental benefits for everyone. “The NUA should take note of the many examples that exist in cities in both North and South on improved urban planning, walking and cycling and the benefits this brings to particularly for groups such as the poor, old, women and young people” says Kristie Daniel, Program Director, Livable Cities, HealthBridge.
  • Freight – Despite the fact that the efficient movement of goods, waste and services is essential for a healthy urban economy and shares the transport network with passengers. Too often the specific needs of freight are neglected in urban planning and transport policy processes. The New Urban Agenda does not pay sufficient attention to the issue of freight movements. The text needs to be revised to address freight issue in a much more systematic manner. 

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The Partnership on Sustainable, Low Carbon Transport (SLoCaT) is a multi-stakeholder partnership of over 95 organizations (representing UN organizations, Multilateral and Bilateral development organizations, NGOs and Foundations, Academe and the Business Sector). SLoCaT promotes the integration of sustainable transport in global policies on sustainable development and climate change in support of its overarching goal to mobilize global support for sustainable, low carbon transport and thereby reduce the growth of GHG emissions generated by land transport in developing countries and maximize the contribution of transport to poverty eradication and sustainable development. For more information, please see: www.slocat.net

The SLoCaT Partnership has been tracking the Habitat III process and negotiations and has produced a number of Knowledge Products and reports based on the preparatory events, Policy Documents and National Reports. In recent months we have provided a “transport” analysis of the different drafts of the New Urban Agenda and made specific suggestions for improvements. SLoCaT and its members are also hosting a number of transport events in Surabaya and Quito. All information is publically available at: http://www.slocat.net/new-urban-agenda

For more information: Cornie Huizenga, SLoCaT, cornie.huizenga@slocatpartnership.org +86 139 0194 9332 

Background on past UN pledges:

U.N. member states have already unanimously recognized the importance of transport issues on multiple occasions including:

In the 2012 “The Future We Want”, the outcome document from the major UN Commission on Sustainable Development Rio+20 summit, governments recognized:

“the importance of the efficient movement of people and goods, and access to environmentally sound, safe and affordable transportation as a means to improve social equity, health, resilience of cities.”

“the importance of mixed-use planning and of encouraging non-motorized mobility, including by promoting pedestrian and cycling infrastructures.”

In September 2015 the UN agreed on the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, the 15-year global framework that came into effect in January 2016. Two of the targets for these goals pledge governments to:

“provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport, with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons” by 2030.

And by 2020, they pledge to:

“halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents”.

The most recent major global agreement was struck in December 2015, when U.N. member states finalized the Paris Agreement on climate change. Delivering on that accord will essentially require the de-carbonization of urban transport in the coming decades.

Sources for more information: