Friday, August 10, 2012

Followup on Sustainable Transportation Commitments at Rio+20

Many voluntary commitments were made at the June 2012 Rio+20 conference, some of the most notable concerned promises about emissions reduction in transportation. According to an August 7 Press Release from the Worldwatch Institute, transportation emissions are the fastest growing source of global greenhouse gas emissions, with emissions expected to increase 300 percent by 2050. Today, emissions from transportation contribute to approximately 80 percent of the harmful air pollutants that result in 1.3 million premature deaths annually, according to Michael Replogle and Colin Hughes of the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy (ITDP). The two authored the fourth chapter, "Moving Toward Sustainable Transport, in Worldwatch's book State of the World 2012: Moving Toward Sustainable Prosperity, published in April 2012.

The largest financial commitment made at the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development was a pledge by the 8 largest multilateral development banks (MDBs) to commit 500 staff and to dedicate $175 billion for more sustainable transportation in the coming decade. This unprecedented agreement was facilitated by the Partnership on Sustainable Low Carbon Transport (SLoCaT), which brings together 68 MDBs, civil society organizations, UN agencies, and research and industry organizations.

"This action promises to begin countering decades of unsustainable investments in transportation systems, such as building high-capacity motorways," said Michael Renner, Worldwatch Senior Researcher and State of the World 2012 project co-director. "But it will require new resources for civil society groups to be able to ensure independent monitoring of impacts and follow-through by MDBs."

"If transportation investments and management policies foster walking, cycling, use of high quality public transportation, and smart traffic management, growing urbanization can reduce consumption of scarce resources, protect public health, and deliver happier, nicer cities," said Michael Replogle, Managing Director for Policy and Founder of ITDP and State of the World 2012 contributing author. "These unprecedented MDB financial and reporting commitments present an opportunity to leverage large shifts in domestic and private transportation investment and to build capacity for a paradigm shift."

The demands on transportation infrastructure continue to mount. Without changes in policy, 2 to 3 billion cars will be on the world's roads by 2050, in comparison to 800 million cars today, according to the International Energy Agency.

Colin Hughes, Global Policy Director at ITDP and State of the World 2012 contributing author said "sustainable transport strategies can address rising mobility needs that accompany increases in population, employment, and trade at a lower cost overall, with more job creation and fewer adverse impacts."

The key to this approach is a new sustainability paradigm called "Avoid, shift, and improve."

Sustainable transportation can be achieved by avoiding unnecessary trips with smarter planning, pricing, and telecommunications; Shift trips to more sustainable modes with investments in bus rapid transit (BRT), walking, cycling, and traffic management, by limiting and pricing parking, by applying polluter-pays incentives, and offering better traveler information. Improve vehicle efficiency with cleaner fuels, better-operated networks, and efficient vehicle technology adapted to local conditions and requirements.

Worldwatch's State of the World 2012, released in April 2012, focuses on the themes of inclusive sustainable development discussed at Rio+20, the 20-year follow-up to the historic 1992 Earth Summit, which was also held in Rio de Janeiro. The report presents a selection of innovations and constructive ideas for achieving environmental sustainability globally while meeting human needs and providing jobs and dignity for all.

The Worldwatch Institute is an independent research organization based in Washington, D.C. that works on energy, resource, and environmental issues. The Institute's State of the World report is published annually in more than 18 languages. For more information, visit www.worldwatch.org.

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