The Future of Transport

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

There are 1.25 million lives lost in road accidents annually — 90 percent of these in low -income countries. Air pollution leads to around 6.5 million deaths each year. And almost 25 percent of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions come from transport systems. To ensure a sustainable future for this planet, the transport sector must undergo a massive transformation.

Without sustainable transport, we won’t be able to make progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and climate change. This was the topic of discussion at the first-ever United Nations Conference on Sustainable Transport in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, which took place November 26-27, 2016. The event brought together all transport stakeholders — public and private — to discuss how to move from global commitments on transport to concrete action.

Transport generates large development benefits – and efficient, universally accessible transport systems are the backbone of development. While there is no SDG specifically on transport, it is a means to achieve the SDGs as well as World Bank Group’s twin goals of ending extreme poverty by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity.

We need to rethink the transport industry to meet these goals, and redefine what sustainable transport will look like in the future.

First, transport systems should be efficient and accessible for all and support an inclusive and sustainable growth process, by connecting rural and urban parts of a country, and the poor and disadvantaged.

Second, the benefits of modern mobility solutions should cut across economic, social, and environmental dimensions of sustainable development leading to the accessibility of new markets, education, health services, and other opportunities.

Third, transport systems should be able to withstand various shocks – especially the effects of climate change — in order to strengthen economies’ resilience.

But to operate such a transformation in the transport sector, we will have to resolve multiple, and often contradictory challenges:

  • responding to a huge increase in mobility needs, both for freight and people in freight volume, without clogging roads with new cars and trucks;
  • ensuring that technology advances are channeled towards more efficient and better coordinated transport systems; and,
  • building better and more resilient transport infrastructure, rather than just more.

We will also have to work as a team, with representatives from governments, international organizations, businesses, civil society and communities.

The transport sector must come together to effectively and aggressively pursue its transformation. And to help the transport community get organized around a common platform, we are proposing to develop with all actors a common initiative called Sustainable Mobility for All which envisions: a common, global vision for transport around clear goals; a coalition of actors to support it; and a program of bold and ambitious actions to transform the world’s mobility.

This new vision is articulated around four pillars: access for all, efficiency, safety, and green. With this initiative, we hope that the transport community will find it easier to speak with one comprehensive and cohesive voice, and to help governments integrate climate, inclusivity, efficiency, and safety considerations into their transport plans.

In Ashgabat, with the support of DFID, we convened the broad transport community to seek feedback and consensus around the four-goal framework for Sustainable Mobility for All. This consultative workshop is the first step in the direction of bringing the transport community together.

The World Bank Group stands ready to support these efforts, with the view of developing the proposed initiative as a truly multi-stakeholder effort that would benefit all actors. By uniting all actors in the transport sector around a set of common and clear objectives, the sector will be on a stronger footing and better equipped to address gaps — in action, coordination, and funding — and to generate the transformational changes required for sustainable mobility.

We all need to work together to transform the transport sector into a sustainable and enabling sector which can advance the SDGs and climate action. With a broad coalition of partners developing Sustainable Mobility for All, we believe we can make sustainable transport a reality.