2017 Synthesis Report on Voluntary National Reviews helps build stronger linkages between sustainable transport and the SDGs

The Second Synthesis Report of Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) (2017) was released by the Division for Sustainable Development (DSD) and the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) under the United Nations. The second report synthesizes the 43 VNRs submitted to the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) in July 2017 and provides a snapshot of general characteristics of the early implementation of the 2030 Agenda, and identifies challenges and examples of implementation from the reporting countries.

Compared to the first synthesis report where there was no reference included on sustainable transport development, the second sythensis report in 2017 has considerably expanded its references to sustainable transport by citing a number of examples on the challenges and actions taken in the transport sector to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-being), SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure), SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), and SDG 13 (Climate Action). The increase in transport references in the 2017 synthesis report is crucial to help consolidate the critical role of sustainable transport to achieve the SDGs.

Examples of the challenges and implementations related to sustainable transport include:

SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-being):

  • Road safety: 10 countries (Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belgium, Belize, Chile, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Portugal and Thailand) reported on efforts to reduce the number of deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents. For example, Thailand has revised road safety laws and launched a series of campaigns to create awareness and promote proper behaviours by focusing on eliminating risks such as speeding, drunk driving, failure to wear safety helmets, and safety belts.
  • Public health: Low accessibility in rural communities and remote areas (Botswana, Nigeria, Zimbabwe) and insufficient transportation (Botswana, Belize, Nigeria) were among the reasons contributing to the challenges in reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health.

SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy)

  • Renewable energy: A major challenge regarding the use of renewable energy in Belgium and Sweden was reported to be the transport sector.

SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure):

  • Transport infrastructure expansion: many countries reported on initiatives to improve transport infrastructure, including airports, roads, harbours, road and rail links (Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Chile, India, Panama, and Togo). For example, India has set an investment target of INR 25 trillion (USD 390 billion) for infrastructure development over a period of three years (2016-19). In its development plan for 2015-2019, Indonesia has prioritised infrastructure development acceleration to strengthen national connectivity, developing urban mass transportation, and improving effective and efficient financing.
  • Developing climate resilient transport: Costa Rica noted that it is in the process of updating its guidelines for public investment projects to incorporate risk management and adaptation to climate change throughout the cycle to promote sustainability and resilience.
  • Regional connectivity: Bangladesh noted its commitment to upgrade its highway and transport networks to facilitate trade and cross-border movement of vehicles, including through regional initiatives such as the SAARC Highway Corridor.
  • Sustainable transport/ modal shift: Belgium noted that the number of private cars in the country is slowly declining but remains very high, and it reported on efforts to realize a modal shift in favour of public transport.
  • Transport and social equity: Cyprus, Japan, Sweden, Thailand, and Zimbabwe were among the countries that noted the need for accessible infrastructure and transport. Japan reported that its government has promoted the adoption of barrier-free design of transportation facilities and vehicles, based on the concept of universal design.

SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities)

  • Pollutions from automobile transport: the Czech Republic noted that suburbanization is causing an increase in automobile transport and commuting distances, resulting in smog situations and over-limit noise levels.
  • Sustainable Mobility: Numerous countries stressed the importance of sustainable transport and mobility, and reports included examples of policies on enhanced public transport, incentivizing cycling and walking, and investments in rail transport, among others. Maldives, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, and Sweden were among the countries that stressed the importance of sustainable transport and mobility. Transport is key for providing access to employment, education and public service and enhanced public transport can tackle isolation, promote inclusion and increase disposable income of households.
  • Transport finance: In Portugal, transport accounts for 15% of household budgets, being the largest expenditure after housing. As noted by Slovenia, in addition to this, sustainable mobility reduces negative impacts on the environment and improves both the quality of habitat and traffic safety; hence public transport, cycling and walking need to be incentivized.
  • Modal shift (freight): The establishment of a mass transit system for the Greater Nairobi area in Kenya in the form of bus rapid transit corridors, and the development of the standard gauge rail, which will move a significant amount of freight from road to rail.

SDG 13 (Climate Action):

  • Transport emissions: Some of the sectors contributing to emissions were targeted with specific policies, including the transport sector (Slovenia, and Portugal).

The report highlights the ways in which reporting countries have addressed the imperative of “leaving no one behind”, a core principle of the 2030 Agenda. It examines how reporting countries have included SDGs into national development plans and strategies and how they have put in place a robust institutional framework for guiding and monitoring the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The report further reflects the challenges facing reporting countries in various areas, including in the collection, processing, analysis and dissemination of reliable, timely, accessible, and sufficiently disaggregated data.

The SLoCaT Partnership has previously released a report on the overall treatment of transport in the HLPF 2017 process, including a detailed analysis of the 43 VNRs from the transport perspective. The report finds that while there is progress on transport’s inclusion in the VNRs and other input to HLPF compared to 2016, there is still much work to be done to establish a structured framework that effectively measures the progress made in the transport sector towards achieving the SDGs.For more information, please see here.

Sustainable transport services and infrastructure are essential to achieving most, if not all, the SDGs. Although sustainable transport is not represented by a standalone SDG in the 2030 Agenda, it is mainstreamed in a direct or indirect manner into several SDGs, especially those related to poverty alleviation; food security; access to health services, clean water, education, and employment; gender equality; energy; infrastructure; cities and human settlements; and climate change. To learn more about sustainable transport and SDGs, please visit http://www.slocat.net/sdgs-transport