International Stakeholders Endorse Ashgabat Statement Supporting Cleaner, Greener Transportation, as Sustainable Transport Conference Concludes

As the first ever Global Sustainable Transport Conference concluded today, representatives of more than 50 countries endorsed the Ashgabat Statement on Commitments and Policy Recommendations, with a view to supporting cleaner, greener transportation, from local transit systems to worldwide multimodal networks.

Rashid Meredov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan, said the Conference had heard about successful projects and innovative ideas being developed. Recommendations would guide future efforts, he said.

By the Ashgabat Statement, participants stressed the need to promote the integration of science, technology and innovation into sustainable transport systems by tapping into technological opportunities in the decades to come to bring about fundamental, transformative changes to transport systems. That included through the use of energy-efficient technology, as well as information and communications technology, and called for strengthening capacity-building support to developing countries. They also welcomed stakeholders who had developed and launched sustainable transport initiatives, and called on all stakeholders to continue to seek collaborative partnerships for new, innovative, sustainable transport paradigms.

“The Conference has reinforced the importance of sustainable transport and has shown it is a shared global task,” said Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, at the closing ceremony. “Sustainable transport solutions are key to leaving no one behind, securing prosperity, enabling access to services and protecting the environment. Without sustainable transport, there will be no lasting progress on climate action and the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Noting the many encouraging success stories delegates had shared at the two-day conference, he said more needed to be done, including mobilizing trillions of dollars in investments and implementing legal, regulatory and governance frameworks. Policy decisions needed to meet the needs of all in a low-carbon manner, requiring integrating transport modes and tapping into technological opportunities to bring the fundamental, transformative changes. He also underlined the need to continue and strengthen capacity-building to developing countries.

“We have identified areas for regional and international cooperation and shared far-reaching policy recommendations,” he said. “We have, collectively and individually, identified concrete actions to move the world towards the new and essential paradigm of sustainable transport. Looking ahead, we must use our shared understanding to advance sustainable transport for all, by delivering on our commitments, forging new alliances and transforming our policies.”

Also during the closing ceremony, Igor Runov, Under-Secretary-General and Head of the International Road Transport Union, presented the summary of the Transport Business Forum, which had been held earlier in the day.

During the Conference, Heads of State and Government, ministers, other high-level officials, more than 20 intergovernmental organizations and United Nations entities and 200 civil society and private sector representatives discussed ways to build greener, better transport systems that aligned with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Conference featured thematic discussions that touched on issues ranging from climate change and energy to financing initiatives and road safety. The themes were “Sustainable transport at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”; “Reaching the most remote: Rural transport challenges and opportunities”; “Sustainable transport solutions to the climate crisis”; “Public transport in the twenty-first century: Moving passengers and freight in a sustainable manner”; “Sustainable transport and transit solutions in countries in special situations”; “Energy and transport”, “Financing sustainable transport: Domestic resource mobilization, international cooperation and public-private partnerships”; “Multimodal sustainable transport and transit solutions: Connecting rail, maritime, road and air”; and “Global Vision Zero: Reaching a new era in road safety”.

Panellists included ministers, experts and other stakeholders who presented solutions to pressing challenges and provided examples of innovative projects that were already having an impact on local populations. Among those ideas were bus vouchers for pregnant women making it possible for them to visit health centres to receive prenatal care.

Speakers also raised concerns, with some pointing out that lack of access to transport continued to cripple economies in rural areas and in countries in special situations. Others noted that transport must be safe for all, including for women and girls who used public transit. Delegates also emphasized that when developing transport systems, cooperation among public and private sectors could bring added benefits. Many stressed that international cooperation to create truly global sustainable transport systems was critical to achieving the goals set out in the 2030 Agenda.

Indeed, speakers pointed out that a number of Sustainable Development Goals and their targets were linked to transport. Among them, Goal 3 on health included a target on increased road safety and Goal 9 on resilient infrastructure and Goal 11 on sustainable cities extended access to transport and expanding public transportation.

Speakers also highlighted the importance of leaving no one behind when working towards achieving the 2030 Agenda vision. Some emphasized the need to expand access to transport to reach vulnerable populations, including older persons and people living in remote communities.

A common call that had echoed through the debates was that enhanced, sustainable transport carried widespread benefits, from the economy to the quality of life. Among them were increased access to markets, health care and basic services.

As underlined in the Ashgabat Statement, participants “reiterated their commitment to continue working on sustainable transport issues and keep them high on the global sustainable development agenda”.

Thematic Discussion I

A thematic discussion was held on “Financing sustainable transport: domestic resource mobilization, international cooperation and public-private partnerships”. Chaired by Bambang Susantono, Vice-President, Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development, Asian Development Bank, the panellists were: Walid Abdelwahab, Director, Infrastructure Development, Islamic Development Bank; Ekaterina Miroshnik, Director for Infrastructure, Russia, Central Asia and Mongolia, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development; Jannat Salimova-Tekay, Head, Project Finance and Infrastructure, Central Asia and Caucasus, Ernst and Young; and Holger Dalkmann, Co-Chair, Partnership on Sustainable Low Carbon Transport.

Mr. SUSANTONO said an estimated $1 billion to $3 billion needed to be invested every year in transport, a sum that would grow in the coming decade given demographic growth forecasts and demand for transport. Developing countries were receiving less than 40 per cent of current annual investment, despite having the most pressing needs. Mobilizing financing resources for sustainable transport was therefore crucial.

Mr. ABDELWAHAB pointed to two major issues in financing transport. The first was the importance of identifying needed resources and the second concerned the process of financing the development of transport systems that considered national budgets and user fees. Countries that decided to implement user fees created space for private investments, he said, underlining a need to establish a favourable climate for private-sector financing.

Ms. MIROSHNIK said Turkey was a good example of public-private partnerships in financing transport sector projects. The projects had been well prepared and had covered potential risks. Among the most important considerations for investors were the quality, risk assessment and the possibility of user fees. Investors also based their decisions on the capacity of authorities to guarantee a minimum revenue level.

Ms. SALIMOVA-TEKAY said investors wanted predictable contracts, including passenger user fees and shared risks, adding that they were risk averse. While the borrowing capacity of development banks was an important element, it was crucial to strengthen the lending ability of local banks, enabling projects to be funded in local currency, she said.

Mr. DALKMANN highlighted the importance of attracting private investors to projects that benefited large numbers of users. Providing a number of examples, he said that in Mexico City, 80 per cent of investments involved road infrastructure when only 20 per cent of citizens used cars. The capacity of local authorities was also essential with regard to sustainable transport projects, he said, pointing to London, where parking fees in public spaces contributed to sustainable transportation initiatives.

Mr. SUSANTONO, summarizing the discussion, said an estimated $3 trillion in investments were needed annually until 2050. Developing countries in Asia must invest 6 per cent of their gross national product in transport and energy sectors. While financial resources were available, he said there was a dearth of well-prepared projects.

Also speaking in the discussion was the representative of Nepal.

Thematic Discussion II

Landlocked developing countries and small island developing States face a unique set of transport challenge that could best be tackled through greater regional and international cooperation, speakers said during a thematic discussion on “Sustainable transport and transit solutions in countries in special situations”.

Chaired by Gyan Chandra Acharya, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, the panellists were: Brian Mushimba, Minister for Transport and Communications of Zambia and Global Chair of the Landlocked Developing Countries Group; Milton Claros Hinojosa, Minister for Public Works and Housing Services of Bolivia; Souleymane Soulama, Minister for Transport, Urban Mobility and Road Safety of Burkina Faso; Mahmoud Mohieldon, Senior Vice-President for the 2030 Development Agenda, World Bank; and Seiuli Ueligitone, Associate Minister for the Ministry of Works, Transport and Infrastructure of Samoa.

Mr. ACHARYA, opening the discussion, said 1 billion people lived in countries in special situations. Such States bore a disproportionate share of challenges such as pollution and road-related deaths.

Mr. MUSHIMBA said that being landlocked meant reduced competitive advantage, which in turn negatively affected overall development. Enhanced regional and bilateral cooperation was therefore important, he said, emphasizing the Vienna Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries for the Decade 2014-2024. While road transport was most cost-efficient, few landlocked countries had domestic rail systems, while air transport – offering direct access to international markets – was costly. While there had been improvements in transport infrastructure development, much more needed to be done. Through strong partnerships and international support, efficient transport systems could be created that could turn landlocked countries into land-linked countries.

Mr. HINOJOSA said that, for Bolivia, transport development needed to strike a balance between economic, social and environmental sustainability. Some projects required coordination with neighbouring countries, he said, adding that landlocked developing countries should enjoy equal conditions. There should also be unrestricted access to natural resources, which as a whole belonged to all countries. He went on to say that a Lufthansa pilots’ strike which disrupted the Conference demonstrated how landlocked developing countries were exposed to external elements resulting in greater problems and expenditures.

Mr. UELIGITONE emphasized the impact of climate change on sustainable transport systems in small-island developing States such as Samoa, where seaports and airports were situated in low-lying coast areas. Summarizing his country’s transport sector plan for the next five years, he said adequate and sustainable funding for transport infrastructure was a major challenge. Such a context required integrating environmental sustainability, climate change adaptation and natural hazard mitigation into transport planning.

Mr. MOHIELDIN said many landlocked countries had been able to connect with the rest of the world through good governance, leadership and infrastructure investment. Blaming nature may not really be relevant, he said, recalling that in Roman times, it was safer to trade over the Mediterranean than over land. He discussed World Bank transport corridor financing initiatives in Africa and Central Asia, and its support for aviation safety projects in the Pacific region. He noted that the 2030 Agenda provided an opportunity to improve transport. Doing so, however, would require better project preparation and performance benchmarking.

Mr. DUNCAN discussed the Asian Development Bank’s support for the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation Programme, which comprised 11 countries – many of them landlocked – in a region stretching from Mongolia to Pakistan to Georgia. Countries with basic infrastructure networks now wanted to develop trade links, and they were thinking of transport corridors more and more as economic corridors. Massive interest in Central Asia had led to a number of corridor initiatives that would need to be coordinated, as not all could be built, he said, adding that the focus should be put on bankable projects.

When the floor was opened for discussion, two speakers shared their countries’ perspectives.

DHANA BAHADUR TAMANG, Secretary, Ministry of Transport and Physical Infrastructure of Nepal, emphasized the importance of more efficient border crossing points. Another priority, he said, was the development of multimodal transport for both domestic and international needs.

CRISTIAN BARROS (Chile) described how legal frameworks underpinned his country’s role as a transit country for other South American nations, giving them access to Chilean seaports serving Asian markets.

Thematic Discussion III

Replacing a business-as-usual approach to transportation with a new vision of cleaner, greener energy in transport could provide a multitude of benefits and immense cost savings, speakers said during a thematic discussion on “Energy and transport”.

Chaired by Pradeep Monga, Special Representative of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) Director General on Energy and Director of the Energy Department, the panellists were: Ahmed Mohammed Salem Al-Futaisi, Minister for Transport and Communication of Oman; Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, Director General, International Union of Railways; Holger Dalkmann, Director, Strategy and Global Policy, World Resources Institute; and Branislava Balac, international consultant on urban transport issues. Opening remarks were made by Kamel Ben Naceur, Director for Sustainable Energy Policy and Technology at the International Energy Agency.

Mr. MONGA said 2015, with the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change, had been a landmark year that had witnessed a revolution in renewable energy and the transport sector. For its part, UNIDO programmes had focused on supporting the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, including Goal 7 on energy, Goal 11 on sustainable cities and Goal 13 on climate action. Moving forward, cities held the key to sustainable transport systems, including through the use of green supply chains and energy efficiency.

Mr. BEN NACEUR said emissions reduction was a critical issue. Any sustainable solution would require a significant decarbonization of the transport sector to reach the goal set in the Paris Agreement of limiting global temperature rise below 2C. A number of options were available, including electric vehicles, which could provide enormous cost savings when compared with the business-as-usual approach.

“We need to change the way we think of energy,” he said. “We need a much more integrated system of generation and distribution through the transport sector.” That would be part of an integrated, well-planned new vision of the transportation system of the future. For its part, the International Energy Agency was working with the sector to provide such sustainable solutions.

Mr. AL-FUTAISI said working towards sustainable transport was an important step towards a better use of energy and taking care of the environment. Rethinking the current organizational structure in the transport sector was essential and necessary in many countries. For its part, Oman had divided its transport sectors into rail, roads and air. Instead, integrating those areas and likewise implementing interlinked policies should enhance cross-sector cooperation and facilitate project implementation. Other areas that needed attention were finding alternatives to oil and gas and ramping up mass transit systems to reduce emissions. To encourage steps that had already been taken, including using solar or biomass energy to fuel cars and street lights, and promote further advancements, research and development and youth should be supported for their ideas on finding other such innovative ways to save energy.

Mr. LOUBINOUX said he had launched a vision in 2014 for the railway sector that had addressed, among other things, energy and carbon emissions. While railways constituted one of the most energy-efficient transport sectors, efforts had been made to support further developments. Carbon accounting programmes entailed working with developing countries and International Union of Railways members to improve their systems and efficiency. Rail companies were now investing in renewable energy, he said, citing examples in India and Morocco, where solar energy was being harnessed. A new paradigm of energy consumption was appearing on the horizon, including the use of smart grids. Yet, energy efficiency should not be addressed in a vacuum. Instead, it should be approached as a cross-sector issue, with a focus on developing infrastructure, investment, innovation, education and integrating approaches. Not only was energy efficiency beneficial to the environment, but the cost savings were in the trillions over the coming decades.

Mr. DALKMANN provided a range of solutions for reducing emissions and energy use. Among them were using cleaner vehicles and fuels. Another factor was how cities were built in the future, which would heavily influence how much energy was being used. Building energy-efficient public transportation was also important as was speeding up the implementation of stronger fuel standards. Support must be given to countries that were creating and developing transport systems. Pointing out that the Paris Agreement was a great opportunity and countries must now come up with climate action plans, he said he hoped those national plans would include sustainable transport systems.

Ms. BALAC said connecting people and countries was an enormous feat. Recommendations from the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s high-level advisory group on climate change issues, 2030 Agenda and the Habitat III New Urban Agenda provided a path forward. Focusing on the advisory group recommendations, she said efforts must aim at advancing economic and social development by minimizing carbon emissions and contributing to improving living conditions of people worldwide. Going forward, three areas were key: policy development, financing and technological innovations. Those efforts should be integrated into initiatives aimed at achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Electric batteries could fuel cars and buses, using lighter materials could build energy-efficient vehicles and investing in renewable energy could have important results. Sustainable transport was indeed a driver of sustainable development and all actors, including Governments, civil society and citizens, must play their role.

A representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) provided an overview of initiatives, including projects in more than 120 countries, focusing on energy efficiency in the transport, construction and water sectors.

Thematic Discussion IV

Shifting to different modes of transport, particularly along corridors, would mean significant savings in both time and money which would contribute in turn to sustainable development, speakers said during a thematic discussion on “Multimodal sustainable transport and transit solutions: Connecting rail, maritime, road and air”.

Chaired by Frida Youssef, Chief, Transport Section, Trade and Logistics Branch, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the panel included: Donat M. Bagula, Executive Secretary, Northern Corridor Transit and Transport Coordination Authority; Pablo Ortiz, Director of International Relations in the Ministry of Transport and Telecommunications of Chile; D. Zh Iskakov, Chief Executive Officer of Kazakhstan National Railways; Igor Rounov, Under-Secretary-General, International Road Transport Union; and Menno Menist, Director, Panteia, Netherlands.

Ms. YOUSSEF, opening the discussion, said freight transport was growing in tandem with economic and demographic growth, putting pressure on climate and the environment. The session would look at how integrated multimodal transport and transit systems were key to achieving sustainable transport for both passengers and freight.

Mr. BAGULA introduced the Northern Corridor, which combined five modes of transport – maritime, rail, road, pipeline and inland waterways – stretching from Mombasa, Kenya, to Lagos, Nigeria, via several landlocked Great Lakes Basin countries. It was Africa’s biggest corridor, carrying 30 million tons of cargo per year, he said. For participating member States, the corridor was expected to be seamless, economic, smart and green. Having multimodal sustainable transport required a legal framework to facilitate cooperation and promote partnership between players including the private sector.

Mr. ORTIZ called multimodal transport a powerful tool for reducing costs while increasing trade competitiveness. The role played by the private sector was crucial, with potential for improving management and logistical processes. The World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade Facilitation, ratified by Chile, had the potential to bring concrete benefits to landlocked developing countries. Competition in transport services should be encouraged in order to reduce costs while promoting the development of logistics providers. He went on to emphasize the importance of legal frameworks, citing by way of example a land transport agreement between Chile and several of its South American neighbours.

Mr. ISKAKOV detailed the development of multimodal transport along the Silk Road, underscoring the fact that the Central Asian region lacked access to oceans and sea routes. This year, Kazahkstan ranked seventy-seventh in the world in the World Bank logistical performance index, and it hoped to rise to fortieth place. He discussed the “East-West”, “North-South” and trans-Caspian routes. Along the “East-West” route, container traffic was hoped to grow from 100,000 units today to 800,000 by 2020.

Mr. ROUNOV cited research by the International Road Transport Union which revealed that 38 per cent of freight time en route was spent at border crossings, and that more than 40 per cent of freight costs went to illicit payments. Because of a lack of regional integration and connectivity, most goods in South America were imported, rather than traded within the region. Similar figures were seen in Eurasia, he said. Adherence to United Nations instruments such as the Convention on International Transport of Goods Under Cover of TIR Carnets (TIR Convention) were good tools for harmonizing procedures without cost.

Mr. MENIST said a multimodal alternative was essential for making transport corridors attractive. He emphasized the importance of cooperation between countries, saying that while a corridor might not stop at a national border, a country’s thinking would. He also underscored the exchange of information, last-mile haulage and harmonization of procedures.

Thematic Discussion V

Developed countries stand ready to share their experiences in helping to slash traffic fatalities by 50 per cent by 2020, as called for in the Sustainable Development Goals, speakers said during a thematic discussion on “Global Vision Zero: Reaching a new era in road safety” that highlighted some of the steps being taken to make the world’s streets and highways more secure for everyone.

Chaired by Eva Molnar, Director of Sustainable Development Division, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), the panellists were: Koichiro Kakee, Assistant Vice-Minister for International Affairs, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism of Japan; Ion Cotruta, senior adviser, Road Transport Division, Ministry of Transport and Roads Infrastructure of the Republic of Moldova; Mataj Zakonjsek, Head of the Cabinet of the Transport Commissioner of the European Union; Jean Todt, United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Road Safety; Bahtygul Karriyeva, Head of the World Health Organization (WHO) office in Turkmenistan; Christian Friis Bach, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe; and Michael Gschnitzer, Global Head of Sales, Kapsch Trafic Com.

Mr. KAKEE said Japan had reduced its traffic fatalities from a 1970 peak of 16,765 to about 4,000 today by undertaking a variety of measures which ranged from more traffic lights and road signs to the hiring of more traffic police officers and the mandatory use of seat belts. Its current goal was to reduce traffic deaths to 2,500 by 2019, notably through efforts to reduce accidents involving elderly people, who now accounted for half the fatalities. He said it would be gratifying if Japan’s experience could be useful elsewhere in the world.

Mr. COTRUTA said the Republic of Moldova aimed to halve the number of traffic fatalities in its territory by 2025. Among the steps taken towards that goal was the creation of a national road safety agency, the establishment of a road safety fund and the installation of 11,000 road signs. Video observation points had also been set up, while drivers were required to undergo training every five years. A vehicle inspection scheme was also put into place.

Mr. ZAKONJSEK said road safety was a priority for the European Commission, which was more than willing to reach out globally to help others in that regard. Last year, 26,000 people lost their lives on European Union roads, substantially less than in 2010 but still not good enough, he said. It would be challenging to reach target zero, but that did not mean giving up trying. Achievements over time had included a focus on excess speed, failure to use seat belts, improved road design and the collection of comparable and reliable data for decision-making. More and more European Union member States were taking up the Global Vision Zero target with the primary objective of preventing human suffering rather than reducing the number of crashes per se.

Mr. TODT said Global Vision Zero meant preventing the annual loss of 1.4 million lives on the world’s roads while building a culture of safety. “We are making some progress,” he reported, referring to the declaration of the Decade of Action for Road Safety in 2011. He recalled the inclusion of road safety in the Sustainable Development Goals, encouraged Member States to adhere to United Nations instruments concerning road safety, and highlighted the adoption in April by the General Assembly of a resolution paving the way for the establishment of a United Nations Road Safety Fund. He went on to say that, since his appointment as Special Envoy, he had been inspired in his travels by the progress being made.

Dr. KARRIYEVA said road safety targets were unlikely to be met without strengthening emergency health-care systems. About 500,000 road traffic fatalities could be averted if emergency care systems throughout the world were up to developed country standards. She emphasized the importance of effective emergency care starting at the scene of injury, as well as access to universal health coverage, for which there were many examples of innovative financing schemes.

Mr. BACH, remembering how a neighbour’s child was disabled for life after a traffic accident, called the current level of traffic deaths “frightening”. More action was needed, he said. Key United Nations instruments such as the 1949 and 1968 Conventions on Road Traffic, the 1968 Convention on Road Signs and Signals, and agreements on periodic vehicle inspection must be implemented. More international funding was also required, he said, citing the Road Safety Trust Fund, which could not be financed by Governments alone. Five dollars from the sale of each car, and five cents for each new tire, plus contributions from insurers, philanthropies and private individuals could be significant.

Mr. GSCHNITZER explained how new technology could help Global Vision Zero achieve its goal. Sensor-equipped vehicles would transmit data about such things as weather and road congestion to a central location. There it would be aggregated, then sent back to the vehicle for action. In the future, he added, “virtual green waves” would be able to tell vehicles how fast or slow to go to avoid stopping at intersections.

The representative of Belarus delivered a statement from the floor.

Source: United Nations