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Commission on Sustainable Development

3 May 2011 @ 1:15 pm

Sustainable transport policies, eco-efficient infrastructure and green economies in the Americas.

Sustainable Development and Human Settlements Division. UN-ECLAC
Natural Resources and Infrastructure Division. UN-ECLAC
Urban Design Lab. The Earth Institute, Columbia University. U. S.A

Several aspects are proving important today for analyzing the current and future sustainability in the Americas and Asia, especially regarding public policies. Some of those main aspects are related to sustainable transport policies and eco-efficient infrastructure.

Patterns on infrastructure development are key determinants of the environmental sustainability of economic growth (MDG7 – ensure environmental sustainability). Eco-efficiency is a key criterion for the development of sustainable infrastructure, and therefore a key objective in developing, planning and building more sustainable cities. More eco-efficient infrastructure delivers higher-quality services with less use of resources and low negative environmental impact. It also ensures greater resilience and thus lower vulnerability to natural disasters. 

On the other side, with growing freight and passenger traffic, pollution and congestion risks are aggravating, losing capacity for improving the efficiency, productivity and competitiveness of the economies, together with its potential for increasing the equity. Consequently, working towards a sustainable public policy is required, with the goal to promote a modal-shift able to bring benefits to the four sides of the sustainability: economic, social, environmental and institutional. 

Clearly, the right way for that is promoting the concept of co-modality, i.e. optimally combining various modes of transport within the same transport chain, which is the solution for the future in the case of freight and passenger mobility, both for urban and long distance travels. 

Eco-efficiency can be measured using indicators that relate to environmental impact (such as emissions of pollutants) or resource use (such as water or energy), to the service or economic benefit provided (such as passenger kilometers, in the case of transportation infrastructure). Basically eco-efficiency is expressed as the creation of more value, both economic and social, with fewer resources and less impact, or doing more with less. A well-designed mass bus rapid transit system is therefore more eco-efficient than a highway. In an era of rise of natural resource prices and increase of vulnerability to natural disasters and climate change, eco-efficient infrastructure can have significantly positive long-term impacts on both economic and environmental sustainability, particularly in developing and least-developed countries. In the context of climate change, eco-efficient infrastructure development is also essential to the development of “low-carbon” economies. It also expands financing opportunities through innovative mechanisms such as the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), on the basis of avoided greenhouse gas emissions.

Cities are at a crossroad in developing and expanding their infrastructure in support of economic growth and rapid urbanization.  Choices made in urban infrastructure development today will determine the competitiveness, quality of life and sustainability of cities for decades to come.

The need to take environmental and social considerations into account to when making decisions on infrastructure investment is clear. 

The main objective of the proposed side event is to present the findings of projects and programs developed by the organizing institutions related to sustainable transport policies and eco-efficient infrastructure, with a focus on Latin America and the Caribbean, and to discuss policy design and management instruments for the development of public policies for transportation and infrastructure and eco-efficient infrastructure initiatives and projects.

These projects are: 

  • Environmental innovation on urban services and infrastructure: towards a low carbon economy (UN-ECLAC/ AECID)
  • Sustainable Ports and Transport Policies (UN-ECLAC-Ministerio Fomento España)
  • Eco-efficient and sustainable urban infrastructure development in Asia and Latin America. UN-ESCAP/UN-ECLAC/UDL




3 May 2011
1:15 pm
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