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Warsaw Meeting Calls for Swift Action towards Low-carbon Transport, Trillions in Savings

High-level representatives from the transport sector held a full day of discussions in parallel to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Warsaw. Although the transition to sustainable transport represents a major challenge, the event made it clear that low-carbon transport is the only way to a greener future, and could yield substantial economic, social and environmental co-benefits.
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December 3, 2013 — The United Nations climate change meetings in Warsaw may be over for now, but for policy makers around the world the opportunities and challenges ahead are enormous.

This is certainly the case of the transport sector, which held its own full day of discussions in parallel to the United Nations Framework Conference on Climate Change Conference of the Parties 19 held during the third week of November 2013.

The challenges for the transport sector were clear: countries need to scale up sustainable transport strategies if the world is to effectively slow the growth of greenhouse gas emissions coming from the sector (almost a quarter of total emissions).  And the strategies need to simultaneously address health, safety, and economic development while cutting CO2 pollution.

But the opportunities were also evident: sustainable transport strategies can save money and resources.  If available low-carbon transport technologies and policies are adopted, cost savings of $50 trillion can be achieved by 2050 based on a recent International Energy Agency study.

The IEA estimates that potential savings of $20 trillion in infrastructure expenditures and $30 trillion in vehicle and fuel expenditures between now and 2050 can be achieved by reorienting land transport to a more sustainable growth trajectory, with improved public and non-motorized transport, freight and logistics, travel demand and system management, and access for the poor and those with disabilities.

Warsaw statement

The more the world urbanizes – and we’re forecast to be 70 percent urban-dwellers by 2050 – the more critical clean, efficient, safe transportation becomes. And the transition to low-carbon transportation is affordable if countries combine policies to reduce GHG emissions with broader sector reforms aimed at maximizing local co-benefits.

Co-benefits of Cleaner, Safer, Affordable Transport:

ü Cutting the toll of deaths and injuries from road accidents
ü Improving human health by reducing hazardous air pollution and harmful noise.
ü Expanding access to more sustainable transport for more employment, markets, health, education, and other services essential to eliminating extreme poverty.
ü Reducing the negative economic impacts of traffic congestion
ü Reducing the burden of global expenditures required for road transport infrastructure, motor vehicles, and fuels, as well as eliminating fossil fuel subsidies.

As outlined in a recent World Bank report, Turning the Right Corner, transport infrastructure investment today will define energy use and emissions over the next five to seven decades. Thus, the failure to gear today’s investments to real prices of energy and emissions in the long-term will irreversibly lead to higher transport costs.

In this context, the participants of the Transport Day 2013 meeting unanimously adopted the “Warsaw Statement on Low Carbon Transport and Sustainable Development.”

The Warsaw statement calls on the negotiators of a new global climate agreement to accelerate and spur action on low-carbon transport, with a focus on land transport.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, in his message to Transport Day, called for “new ways of moving goods and people. I have called a Climate Summit in September 2014 to raise political will and catalyze concrete action on all climate-related issues, including sustainable transport”.

The UN chief added that the $175 billion voluntary commitment of the world’s largest development banks at Rio+20 “has helped to make sustainable transport a significant feature of discussions on the post-2015 development agenda”. "The arguments for low-carbon transport are strong. The challenge is finance. And that’s where the international community can help to scale up sustainable transport, "said Rachel Kyte, World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development. "Efficient, safer and low-carbon transportation is essential for addressing climate change. We owe it to ourselves and our children to get this right."

Over 500 individuals and organizations endorsed the Warsaw Statement, which was handed to the Ministers and other senior officials arriving in Warsaw to continue discussions on a new global climate agreement.  World Bank Director for Transport, Water and ICT José Luis Irigoyen signed the document on behalf of the World Bank. 


The Transmilenio BRT system in Bogotá, Colombia, has generated a substantial return on investment.
The Bridging the Gap Initiative and the Sustainable Low Carbon Transport (SLoCaT) partnership, which organized the Transport Day 2013 event supported by  17 organizations including the World Bank, will continue to gather support for the Warsaw Statement up to September 2014 when the UN Secretary General will convene global leaders to accelerate action on dangerous climate change.

 “Many countries and cities take action on transport in support of economic and social development; often these also reduce GHG emissions. The initiative of Secretary General has the potential to greatly accelerate these sustainable, low-carbon transport efforts more so than the UNFCCC process, which so far has not generated the policies and financing required to harness the demonstrated mitigation potential in transport,” explained Cornie Huizenga of the SLoCaT Partnership .

Co-benefits of Action

The Warsaw statement calls on the UN Parties to various levels of action aimed for both mitigation of, and adaption to, climate change.

Countries are called to adopt an integrated approach, promote environmentally sustainable transport, sharply reduce emissions in line with the 2°C global warming limitation scenario, and deliver the significant co-benefits essential to meeting sustainable development goals(SDGs).

In brief, the Parties to the UNFCCC must do their part in moving the world towards more efficient, low-carbon, and safer transport systems.  This should start by getting the pricing right and providing more incentives, recognizing the local co-benefits of better transport systems, and improving access to funding.

 “We affirm the need for a comprehensive and ambitious 2015 climate agreement that fully realizes the mitigation potential of the land transport sector, cutting CO2 and black carbon emissions without compromising the role of transport sector in development,” notes the Warsaw Statement. “We hereby declare our commitment to work together to achieve safe, clean, reliable, affordable access for all and commit to this Warsaw Statement on Low Carbon Transport and Sustainable Development.”


More resources:

 Partnership on Sustainable Low Carbon Transport (SLoCaT): Transport Day 2013, Warsaw, November 17, 2013

Warsaw Statement on Low Carbon Transport and Sustainable Development Transport Day, November 17, 2013

 World Bank flagship report: Turning the Right Corner - Ensuring Development Through a Low Carbon Transport Sector

 Blog: One Investment that Can Make Unhealthy Cities Livable and Fight Climate Change: Sustainable Transportation by Rachel Kyte, World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development

 Sustainable Low Carbon Transport (SLoCaT) partnership

Bridging the Gap Initiative

United Nations: Sustainable Development Goals


Last updated: 2013-12-03




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