Asian Countries vowed to move towards Next Generation Solutions for Clean Air and Sustainable Transport − Towards a Livable Society in Asia

Eighth Regional Environmentally Sustainable Transport (EST) Forum in Asia Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall (BMICH)
21November 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka

With the overarching theme of “Next Generation Solutions for Clean Air and Sustainable Transport − Towards a Livable Society in Asia”, the Ministry of Environment and Renewable Energy (MERE) of the Government of Sri Lanka, the Ministry of Transport (MOT) of the Government of Sri Lanka, the Ministry of the Environment of the Government of Japan, the United Nations Centre for Regional Development (UNCRD), and the Clean Air Asia (CAA) co-organized the “Integrated Conference of BAQ 2014 and the Intergovernmental 8th Regional EST Forum in Asia” from 19 to 21 November 2014 in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Recognizing that clean air and sustainable transport are essential to a livable society in Asia, the Integrated Conference called for innovative, smart and cost-effective solutions (policy, institution, technology, and financing) that significantly reduce air pollution and greenhouse gases from energy, industry, transport, and area sources, and ensure a safe, equitable, environment and people-friendly transport system by accelerating the shift towards more environmentally sustainable transport (EST) in Asian cities and countries. The Integrated Conference was not only a follow-up to Rio+20 outcome – The Future We Want, but also aimed to enrich the regional input to on-going discussions and consultations around post-2015 sustainable development agenda and sustainable development goals (SDGs).

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While the Bangkok 2020 Declaration (2010-2020) and Bali Declaration on Vision Three Zeros – Zero Congestion, Zero Pollution and Zero Accidents Towards Next Generation Transport Systems in Asia provides an important basis for countries and cities to develop and implement next generation transport solutions, including required transport infrastructure development, there is an expressed need to strengthen the implementation of sustainable transport towards poverty eradication, national productivity, human development, public health and safety, energy security, resilience of cities, improved accessibility, social equity, regional connectivity and economic integration, improved rural-urban linkage, among others, in post-2015 development era.

Mr. Nikhil Seth, Director, Division for Sustainable Development, UN DESA, remarked the two distinct but interrelated issues – clean air and sustainable transport, together with the overarching theme emphasizing “Next Generation Solutions” were highly relevant to the discussions currently taking place at the United Nations around the post-2015 Development Agenda. Sustainable transport is an important pathway to poverty eradication, better health, resource efficiency, decarbonization, decongestion, connectivity, trade and growth.

Hon. Kumara Welgama, Minister of Transport of Sri Lanka, remarked it was necessary to achieve systematic integration of numerous modes of transport with green infrastructure for sustainable development.

Hon. Susil Premajayantha, Minister of Environment and Renewable Energy of Sri Lanka, remarked that it was important to introduce sustainable transport solutions that meet people’s mobility needs while causing least pollution. Emphasis needs to be put on implementing non-motorized transport such as walking and cycling, and establishing efficient public transport systems rather than the car centric development such as widening roads, and building more roads.

The special message of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon underscored the people’s right to clean air and safe mobility. A systematic shift to sustainable transport, with cleaner vehicles, more efficient public transport and dedicated bicycle and walking lanes, is vital for a cleaner and safer future.  As the Bali Declaration on Vision Three Zeros said, we need Zero Congestion, Zero Pollution and Zero Accidents.

The special message of His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa, President of Sri Lanka attached strong confidence on the rise of Asia in the world to make it the ‘Asian Century’. Asia should therefore lead in new thinking and policies on sustainable development, climate change and environment that are of increased focus in international affairs and national policies. In Asia today, these matters deserve the most serious attention when Asia is in a phase of unprecedented urbanization, persistent economic growth, rapid motorization and industrialization, which is evident from the theme of the Integrated Conference  – “Next Generation Solutions for Clean Air and Sustainable Transport – Towards a Livable Society In Asia”.

In the next 30 years, the world will have 2.5 billion new urban residents, with more than half in Asia; thus Asian countries must build more efficient, healthy and equitable cities.  “Win-win” strategies that  favor resource-efficient transport mode (walking, cycling and public transit) and limit auto traffic (to what the urban road system can accommodate) can help achieve the goals of the Bangkok 2020 Declaration and the Bali Vision Three Zeros. Bus lanes transport far more people than cars using the same traffic lanes. Walking, cycling and public transit are also much more energy efficient, and transit-oriented cities tend to have much lower traffic casualty rates; a more diverse transport system is more affordable for consumers. Asian cities have an opportunity to achieve fewer traffic deaths through Transit Oriented Development (TOD) and Travel Demand Management (TDM) policies and application of advanced technologies such as ITS, Intelligent Freight Systems and dedicated NMT facilities.

Electric vehicle technologies have made significant advances in recent years, and a growing number of people are considering electric mobility as an option for addressing the challenging issues of rapid urbanization and motorization in Asia. While electric mobility may reduce energy use, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, it can do very little to solve traffic congestion or to resolve the conflict between vehicles and pedestrians. Therefore, electric mobility should be seen as a partial, rather than a complete solution, to achieve sustainable transport in the EST region. Electric vehicles have demonstrated their advantages and are increasingly being proven commercially viable in urban passenger and commercial transport fleets. However, the policy decision to promote e-mobility as a means to achieving the Bali Vision Three Zeros, has to be location specific. Also, any e-mobility initiative must go hand in hand with integrated planning of transport, energy, environment and other urban development policies in order to determine the pace of implementation, and to get the best possible results.

Improving the accessibility in Asian cities, requires a clear concept of “Access”, a strategy and a plan. The next generation transport planning defined by the Bali Vision Three Zeros Vision fills this need. Next generation transport planning can support the goals of a city or country i.e. sustainable development goals, climate change goals, creating livable cities. The integration of transport and land-use planning has proven to increase accessibility in urban areas. Failure to recognize the transport and land-use synergies lead to increased congestion, reduced air quality, loss of livability and inaccessible urban areas. Promoting safe, affordable and attractive public transport in cities has large potential to reduce negative symptoms of increased motorisation and greatly increase access in urban and rural areas, when properly implemented.

Improving road safety remains a challenging, yet important goal within the EST region. Currently, an average of 750,000 traffic deaths and 50 million injuries occur in the region annually. While some countries have made progress in reducing traffic fatalities, overall the number of traffic deaths in the region continues to grow. While traffic deaths decline as GDP goes up on average, at any given income level, traffic deaths can still vary widely depending on a country’s strategies and vehicle kilometers traveled.  The victims of traffic deaths in Asia are not only tragedies in and of themselves, but also for households. The victims of traffic fatalities and injuries are disproportionately higher amongst the lowest income groups and people between the ages of 15-44 (when productivity is highest). Traffic deaths and injuries can have dire consequences for a family when a household’s bread winner is killed or injured, making traffic safety also an important goal for poverty alleviation.

As countries become more ambitious in planning and implementation of low-carbon transport through processes such as the Colombo Master Plan, the scale of investments is increasing and coordination required for co-financing and technical assistance are growing as well.  It is clear that strategies and priorities guiding their engagement with the transport sector have evolved in the past five years, and that these organizations are working, spending, and assessing in novel ways that are consistent with the recommendations of previous EST Forums.  Though government ministries and development agencies still face a steep learning curve, key examples have emerged of operationalizing environmentally sustainable transport policies at national level with the assistance of development agencies.

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While cities are the engine of economic growth, the 21st Century version of cities should also focus on resilience, smart growth, and the ability to rise up to different types of challenge, such as providing a healthy living environment for people, and supporting the mobility needs of the disadvantaged. To reverse the trend, policy makers have to look for integrated solutions that would result in the greatest health co-benefits. One possible direction is to invest in a transport system that integrates walking, cycling and public transit. Non-motorized transport (NMT) has been a neglected subject in terms of transport investment and planning. Improvements in sustainable transport can go hand in hand with strengthening or restoring urban ecosystems. Asian countries and cities can emulate the examples of those cities (e.g. Seoul) that have taken measures to actively restore urban ecology. To give voice to their increased awareness eight (8) Asian mayors and local authorities adopted the Addendum to Kyoto Declaration on Environmentally Sustainable Transport. This Addendum provides new impetus on action on sustainable transport by aligning the 2007 Kyoto Declaration with the goals and targets included in the Bangkok 2020 Declaration on Sustainable Transport (2010) and the Bali Vision Three Zero’s Declaration.

Intelligent Freight Systems (IFS) are necessary for a modern economy.  Asia is poised for explosive growth in freight, with one of every two trucks worldwide sold in Asia, and with 50% of new roads and 25% of new rail by 2050 to be constructed in India and the People’s Republic of China.  However, the freight sector in Asia remains inefficient, with logistics costs accounting for 15-25% of GDP in Asia (vs less than10% in US/Europe), and up to 40% of trucks trips in Asia are empty (vs. around 25% in US/Europe).  There is significant potential for improvement through existing measures (e.g. truck tire technologies in the People’s Republic of China [could save] 20 million tons of CO2 per year). Intelligent Freight Systems can further improve freight systems though the use of new, often telematics based, technologies.  Effective Intelligent Freight Systems will require: (a) holistic views of processes in chains and freight transport; (b) inclusion of all technological and spatial dimensions, and (c) consideration of private sector goals (energy and cost savings) and public goals (external/societal goals).

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Increased global rail investments and mode shift to passenger and freight rail are essential to meeting a two-degree Celsius climate change scenario (2DS), and Asia must play a central role in this task.  Asia (including the Russian Federation) accounted for 71% of global passenger rail traffic and 57% of global freight rail traffic in 2011, with both passenger and freight rail volumes doubling between 2000 and 2011. However, investment in rail infrastructure in recent years has not kept pace with projected demand for transport across the Asian region, and modest increases in the length of the rail network are overshadowed by greater increases in the road network.  National governments must play a major role in meeting this challenge, by creating comprehensive long-term policies to invest in new rail projects (e.g. urban rail, freight corridors) and to upgrade existing rail infrastructure (e.g. track electrification, removing bottlenecks).  The private sector must also respond to this challenge by providing innovations to drive down costs of future rail investments. The use of Public-private partnerships to advance the large-scale expansion of rail based transport should be considered more actively.  Finally, international institutions must support the development of passenger and freight rail by financing rail investments and technology transfer, and providing funding for capacity building.

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Global transportation costs and investment requirements could require as much as 500 trillion dollars to be spent globally between 2010 and 2050. Growth will be especially high in Asian countries, which will require huge amounts of investment to develop transport infrastructure and services.  The wide scale adoption of Avoid-Shift-Improve based policies and investment programs can result in net savings of over USD 50 trillion in reduced vehicle purchases, infrastructure and fuel costs. Taxes from fuel and vehicle sales can be utilized to pay for transportation projects (transport pays for transport projects). Similarly, user fees and developer fees can be utilized to secure financing and ensure financial sustainability of transport projects.  Land value capture is another potential funding source.

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Through the post-2015 development agenda to be formally adopted in September 2015 countries will adopt Sustainable Development Goals to replace the Millennium Development Goals. These will include goals, targets and indicators, defining what needs to be achieved, how to achieve it including financing, technical cooperation and capacity building as well as a system of measurement to ensure we are on the right path to sustainability. The EST Forum can contribute to this by aligning its goal and target structure with the SDG structure. This will facilitate reporting to governments on progress on realizing sustainable transport in a manner that is action oriented.

For more information, contact:
Clean Air Asia
Bjarne Pedersen
Bjarne.Pedersen@cleanairasia.org

Chikako Takase
CRC Mohanty
est@uncrd.or.jp