SLoCaT Analysis: Voluntary National Reviews Offer Opportunities for Ambitious Action for Sustainable Transport

On 1 January 2016, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by world leaders in September 2015, officially came into force. The 2030 Agenda is a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with 169 targets stimulating actions to shift global development onto a more sustainable and resilient path.

Although sustainable transport is not represented by a standalone SDG in the 2030 Agenda, it is mainstreamed in a direct or indirect manner into many SDGs. The 2030 Agenda has set path for the transport sector to be more sustainable to minimize road injuries and fatalities, provide sustainable infrastructure for urban, rural, passenger and freight transport, increase access to public transport and eliminate fossil fuel subsidies. In short, without sufficient sustainable transport infrastructure and services across the world’s regions, at least half of the SDGs are at risk of not achieving their potential.

The High-level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development is the United Nation central platform for the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda. As the first session after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, HLPF 2016 was convened with 22 countries presenting their Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) to review their progress on SDG implementation.

The Partnership on Sustainable, Low Carbon Transport (SLoCaT) has prepared a document to assess the treatment of sustainable transport in the 22 VNRs submitted in 2016. The analysis shows that although 64% of the VNRs submitted in 2016 contain references to transport, there is still great potential to raise the profile of sustainable transport in this ongoing review process:

Key findings

  • 2016 VNRs have helped to establish the linkage between transport and a number of SDGs and its targets and indicators, most notably SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure) and SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), while building new linkages with SDG 14 (Life below water) through freight and SDG 17 (Partnerships for the Goals) with the call for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the transport sector.
  • Fewer references are made to other transport topics such as road safety, renewable energy and energy consumption, mitigation, adaptation, and economic development.
  • The case to support the contribution of transport to the overarching theme of the 2030 Agenda to alleviate poverty, enhance food security, ensure social equity, and “Leaving No One Behind” within the VNRs is weak with nearly no reference to it. The missing link is due in part to the lack of references to rural transport and its critical role in implementing a number of SDGs.
  • The case is the same for the lack of reference to fossil-fuel subsidies, which has a direct linkage to SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production) through the indicator 12.c.1 on amount of fossil-fuel subsidies per unit of GDP.
  • VNRs have also provided opportunities for countries to identify good practices and actions in various transport sub-sectors to address a number of environment and sustainability issues, such as mitigation and GHG emissions reduction, access and mobility, connectivity and economic development, financing, road safety, and adaptation.
  • The greatest number of transport references focuses on passenger and public transport from VNRs submitted by European countries

A secondary purpose of this document is to serve as a supportive document for SLoCaTs advocacy for sustainable transport to country VNR coordinators and other relevant stakeholders in the SDG process. The SLoCaT Partnership will actively advocate for the inclusion of sustainable transport in the 2017 VNRs with the following aims:

  • Establish a stronger case of how transport contributes to the overarching goal of the 2030 Agenda on poverty alleviation, food security, social equity and leaving no one behind;
  • Increase country references to sustainable transport;
  • Establish stronger connections showing the contribution of transport to achieve SDG indicators, particularly 9.1.1 on rural access and 12.c.1 on fossil fuel subsidies which are missing in the VNRs submitted in 2016;
  • Increase references to transport sub-sectors that were missing or weak in the VNRs submitted in 2016, such as rural transport, fossil fuel subsidies, rail transport, freight, and transport policy and planning;
  • Seek to shift references on transport from descriptions of the importance of sustainable transport to specific targets, concrete measures, and best practices in the transport sector.

Although VNRs are submitted and presented by national officials, the process values broad consultation and coordination ranging from inter-ministerial coordination to the wider inclusion of civil society and public consultations. There are thus considerable opportunities for the sustainable transport community to voice their opinion on the next round of VNRs to be presented at the HLPF 2017 in July. Examples of specific channels to influence the VNR process include: 1) Expert Group Meetings and Regional Preparatory Meetings to the HLPF and 2) direct outreach to the VNR focal points.

The analysis is available here. For more information on SDGs and transport, please go to here.