There is an urgent need for a transformative shift towards more sustainable transport the top UN official said, stressing the importance of cleaner energy to combat climate change.
“This first World Sustainable Transport Day reminds us that the road to a better future depends on cleaner and greener transportation systems,” Antonio Guterres explained, spotlighting the relationship between transportation and global sustainability.
Fueling climate chaos
“Transportation represents the world’s circulatory system, delivering people and goods across countries and around the world, creating jobs, and supporting prosperity,” Guterres said, underscoring the important feature of transportation as essential facilitator of human development.
“But it is also fueling climate chaos,” added the official, acknowledging the sector’s role in exacerbating the global climate crisis.
The statistics are alarming: the transport sector is responsible for approximately a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions, while 91 percent of the energy used in motorized transport by land, sea, and air is still derived from fossil fuels.
‘Up to the challenge’
Although the sector is heavily reliant on fossil fuels, Guterres expressed optimism about humanity’s ability to address the issue head-on.
“I am convinced humanity is up to the challenge of breaking our addiction to climate-killing fossil fuels,” he proclaimed, emphasizing the need for concerted efforts to transition to sustainable alternatives.
Guterres outlined a vision for a resilient, efficient, and low-carbon transportation future.
“From electric and solar-powered vehicles to renewable aviation fuel sources, to massive investments in green public transportation systems, to measures like carbon pricing and subsidies for low-carbon fuels,” he outlined a strategy towards greater sustainability.
“There is no time to waste. Let’s get moving,” Guterres urged.
Sustainable transportation, policies and innovative technologies was at the front and center of the UN Climate Change Conference, COP28, on November 30 last year.
With global transport at a crossroads, government leaders, industry experts, and civil society groups met in 2021 Beijing, China, for a UN conference to chart the way forward to a more sustainable future for the sector, and greater climate action overall.
“The next nine years must see a global shift towards renewable energy. Sustainable transport is central to that transformation,” Guterres said.
The move to sustainable transport could deliver savings of $70 trillion by 2050, according to the World Bank.
Better access to roads could help Africa to become self-sufficient in food, and create a regional food market worth $1 trillion by the end of the decade.
The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed how transport is “far more than a means of getting people and goods from A to B,” the UN chief said.
Rather, transport is fundamental to implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change, both of which were “badly off-track” even before the crisis.
The Paris Agreement aims to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, but the door for action is closing, he warned.
“Transport, which accounts for more than one quarter of global greenhouse gases, is key to getting on track. We must decarbonize all means of transport, in order to get to net-zero emissions by 2050 globally.”
Decarbonizing transportation requires countries to address emissions from shipping and aviation because current commitments are not aligned with the Paris Agreement.
Priorities here include phasing out the production of internal combustion engine vehicles by 2040, while zero emission vessels “must be the default choice” for the shipping sector.
“All stakeholders have a role to play, from individuals changing their travel habits, to businesses transforming their carbon footprint,” Guterres said.
He urged governments to incentivize clean transport, for example through regulatory standards and taxation, and to impose stricter regulation of infrastructure and procurement.