SLOCAT Key Transformations for Sustainable,
Low Carbon Land Transport

In order to reach the 1.5°C target of the Paris Agreement and provide equitable access to transport and mobility for all, the urgent transformation of transport is necessary. This SLOCAT messaging framework articulates the 11 key transformations necessary to enable sustainable, low carbon land transport; especially considering the availability of solutions and the urgency with which action must be taken. Under each of the 11 key transformations, connections with ongoing wider socio-economic transformations towards a sustainable, low carbon future are outlined.

These 11 key transformations focus on land transport with a geographic footprint targeted at the Global South, in alignment with SLOCAT’s mission and focus. Yet these transformations are also relevant to other geographies and the focus on land transport does not imply that the world can afford to disregard the impact of maritime transport and aviation towards sustainable, low carbon development goals. SLOCAT champions frameworks that primarily aim to avoid unnecessary transport, while at the same time shift to low carbon modes and improve vehicle design, fuel efficiency, and energy sources.

For each Key Transformation, a few relevant facts and figures, supporting visuals and resources by SLOCAT Partners, are offered. To illustrate implementation, a series of Overarching Approaches to apply across transport modes and sub-sectors over time are provided. Moreover, a Toolkit of Catalytic Measures outlines a non-exhaustive list of measures that are catalytic to deliver on the SLOCAT Key Transformations for Sustainable Low Carbon Land Transport.

Developed in co-leadership by the SLOCAT Secretariat, the FIA Foundation, ITDP, MobiliseYourCity and WRI; in the framework of the SLOCAT Task Force for UNFCCC Engagement, and with the financial support of FIA Foundation.
Following extensive open consultation across the SLOCAT Partnership on the drafts elaborated by external consultant Stefanie Sohm, this messaging framework was adopted in October 2021.

Key benefits of sustainable, low carbon transport: Why we need it

Sustainable, low carbon transport is a powerful driver for positive, systemic transformation of our societies.

The SLOCAT Wheel on Transport and the SDGs aims to articulate the breadth of positive interactions between sustainable, low carbon transport and mobility and the 2030 Agenda. We have identified four cross-cutting themes — Equitable, Healthy, Green and Resilient — to present these interactions. 

Under each theme, fundamental notions related to socio-economic and environmental systems on which sustainable, low carbon transport can affect positive change are highlighted.

The key transformations for sustainable, low carbon land transport: What needs to change

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Overarching Approaches to apply across transport modes and sub-sectors overtime

The Overarching Approaches provide general guidance to help deliver on the Key Transformations. They can be applied to many areas within transport, as well as to other sectors.

Put people first, not technology

Transport policy must always put people first, both in the passenger and freight sectors. While some technologies can be tempting for their ingenuity, they may be expensive, not match societies’ needs, and lead to increased inequity and inequality. Sound policy-making should therefore not ask what is technologically possible, but how technology can improve equity in access to sustainable low-carbon transport and mobility.

Co-create and communicate a compelling vision and targets

A compelling vision of the future is a strong driver for mobilising and aligning stakeholders around a common objective. It gives coherence to different measures; links action in the present to specific positive outcomes in the future, and illustrates the benefits of an equitable, healthy, green, and resilient transport system. To inform, engage  and inspire people and to develop a shared sense of ownership, participatory approaches and discussion among a broad community of stakeholders is necessary. Breaking the vision down into intermediate targets enables progress to be achieved and measured, while demonstrating determination. 

Guide short- and medium-term action with clear, coherent policies and messages

Stakeholders and investors require clarity to plan their actions and investments accordingly. Therefore, policy must send clear market signals and provide a reliable and stable framework to support the evolution of a sustainable mobility sector. For example, changes in pricing, regulation, and political priorities need to be communicated ahead of time, and transitory phases need to be defined. With clarity and coherence, businesses can contribute to and benefit from new sustainable transport solutions.

Coordinate and synergise policies across transport and with other sectors

Efficient transport systems should have a coherent set of policies across sub-sectors and modes, benefit from complementarity of policies in other sectors. Transport policy impacts and is impacted by policies in many other sectors, coordinated policy means lower costs and more and faster impact.  Priority areas include health, urban planning and rural development, energy, among others and should be aligned to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (see SDG Wheel above).

Prioritise action by social and environmental value for money

The overall shift towards sustainable and inclusive societies  requires a broader perspective than the traditional cost-benefit analyses of the past. Accounting for social and environmental externalities (both positive and negative) in economic appraisals is crucial to overcoming short-termism and one-sided decision-making. Looking at investments through this lens will enable funds to flow to solutions that have the biggest return in terms of social and environmental development – now and for future generations – and deliver the greatest benefit at the lowest cost for society as a whole.

Engage, empower and coordinate stakeholders across levels of government and sectors

Governments’ responsibilities for the transport sector are spread across the national, regional and local levels. While transport decisions are often made at the local level, the legal framework for local decision-making is many times defined at the national level or even international level. Transport services and policies must be compatible and strategically integrated from the local to the national, in some cases even international level. Therefore, a large number of stakeholders, both public and private, need to be engaged and aligned vertically and horizontally, and empowered with the capacities and resources needed to take the right action.

Build capacity to improve knowledge and data

Sustainable, low carbon transport requires new capacities and knowledge to act and data to support good decision-making. The transformation of the sector must therefore be accompanied by support for enhanced capacity in the public, private and academic sectors, through activities such as professional training, decision making support and adapted curricula. International support, for example, can contribute to building capacity and knowledge at the national and sub-national levels in streamlining approaches to collect, share and analyse data. Together, capacity, knowledge and data can serve as a solid basis to inform decision-makers and catalyse the transformation of transport.

Implement pilots to learn and share, then scale solutions

Pilots are a great way to test new ideas, learn through experience and adapt solutions to the local context. At a relatively low cost through temporal measures (e.g. tactical urbanism), decision-makers and users can see their effects and act accordingly. With increasing support and acceptance, new solutions can then be rolled out at scale more easily. It is crucial, however, to choose and design pilots that have the potential for scaling up, and prepare a plan accordingly.

Catalytic Measures Toolkit

This Catalytic Measures Toolkit provides a non-exhaustive list of measures that are catalytic to deliver on the SLOCAT Key Transformations for Sustainable Low Carbon Land Transport. 

A catalytic measure is understood to:

  • Have a significant impact on transport systems and multiple dimensions of sustainability, while remaining at relatively low-cost, 
  • Improve equity and access in transport and mobility, and
  • Contribute to mode shift. 

The Toolkit indicates the Key Transformation that is impacted by each measure, the level of action at which the measure is expected to be implemented,  and the type of stakeholders who have a role in each measure. A filter can be applied to facilitate navigation.