World has ‘resolve’ to transform transport systems: UN chief

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 27 (APP): The world has the “resolve commitment, imagination and creativity” to transform “transport systems in a sustainable manner that will improve human well being, enhance social progress and protect our planet,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki moon has said.
“This sector is responsible for nearly a quarter of energy related greenhouse gas emissions. And that is expected to substantially increase in the future,” the secretary general said in his opening remarks to the first ever Global Sustainable Transport Conference, which opened in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan on Saturday.
“Without action on the transportation front, we will not be able to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius and as close to 1.5 as possible,” he added.
The 2 degrees Celsius threshold was set by global leaders with the adoption of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change last December, which entered into force early this month, on 4 November 2016.
The two day conference, in which Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif participated, has brought together representatives from the UN, governments, the private sector and civil society, with the common goal of setting new directions for global transport efforts.
Ban noted that the transport sector transcends economics, indeed, it has a human side, and “we should all be concerned about people who do not have the access they deserve.”
“Sustainable transport is out of reach for too many rural communities. Millions of persons with disabilities cannot use public transportation because it is inaccessible. Older persons struggle to move from one place to the next. Even where transport is available it may not be safe especially for women and girls, who often rightly fear they may be attacked,” he explained.
In this respect, the Secretary General highlighted the critical importance of sustainable transport, noting that it has to answer to the needs of those who have the least.
“When it does, we can bridge more than physical distances; we can come closer as one human family,” he underscored.
Further highlighting the heavy toll of unsustainable transport on human life, Ban said road accidents claim about one and a quarter million lives every year.
“The vast majority nine out of 10 is in developing countries,” he said, also noting that city traffic saps productivity.
Further, transport contributes to air pollution, which costs more than three million lives a year.
Mr. Ban noted that the answer to such challenges s not less transport, it is sustainable transport adding “We need more systems that are environmentally friendly, affordable and accessible. Technological advances can get us there.”
The Secretary General went on to outline seven ideas for sustainable transport, including the need for an integrated policy framework that aligns with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“Second, we must address the needs of vulnerable countries, including least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States,” he said, noting that those countries needed simplified border crossings and harmonized regional regulations and requirements.
The third idea, Ban said, was the need to promote better transport systems in cities.
“That means improving public transport while promoting walking and cycling,” he said.
He also highlighted the need to make all transport systems safe and secure to reach the ambitious target set in the 2030 Agenda calling for access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all.
Calling for bold and innovative steps in re thinking transport systems, from design, to technology and consumption patterns, the UN chief stated, as his fifth idea, the need to address the environmental impacts of transport in order to mitigate the impact on climate change and reduce local air pollution.
Ban underscored that all these ideas need financing, noting, “it takes investments to see results.”
“That means mobilizing funds from a variety of sources and fostering North South, South South and triangular cooperation. Public private partnerships are indispensable,” he explained.
Lastly, Mr. Ban highlighted, as his seventh idea, the importance of partnerships, saying: “We have to mobilize all partners by putting people at the centre of transport planning and by working together. Transport is team work.”
As this will be the finial international conference he is convening as UN Secretary General, Mr. Ban said he is happy to end his term by focusing on sustainable transport, telling delegations that he is confident the international community as the resolve, commitment, imagination and creativity to transform our transport systems in a sustainable manner that will improve human wellbeing, enhance social progress and protect our planet Earth.