How sustainable transport fosters sustainable development


On 28 October 2016, the United Nations Secretary-General’s High-Level Advisory Group on Sustainable Transport issued a report entitled “Mobilizing Sustainable Transport for Development”. It urges decision-makers to rely on sustainable transport in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Its purpose is both to give full recognition to the crucial role sustainable transport plays in advancing sustainable development and to provide recommendations on the implementation of sustainable transport systems.  It gives a comprehensive analysis of the topic as it addresses all means of transport, at all territorial levels, in developed and developing countries.

Sustainable transport: a shift in paradigm

Sustainable transport is defined as “the provision of services and infrastructure for the mobility of people and goods – advancing economic and social development to benefit today’s and future generations – in a manner that is safe, affordable, accessible, efficient and resilient, while minimizing carbon and other emissions and environmental impacts.” (p.10)

While mobility used to be about individual motorized transport, sustainable transport is considered as a means that allows all people to have access to what they need. It focuses on quality of life, social equity and safety. Besides, the report shifts away from the policy approach that focuses on the construction of new transport infrastructure. Rather, it relies on the “avoid-shift-improve approach”: avoiding unnecessary or inefficient transport, shifting transport modes for better efficiency and improving the environmental performance of transport.

A global approach: the interconnection between sustainable development challenges and sustainable transport

The report outlines that mobilizing sustainable transport is key in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Transport is interconnected to global challenges such as growing urbanization, which has consequences on transport safety, congestion and pollution. Sustainable transport is part of the solution to those challenges. Greener transport can help reduce environmental impacts thanks to lower greenhouse gas emissions. Equitable transport is a necessary condition to social development because it allows access to education, employment or healthcare for all. More efficient transport will support trade and inclusive growth. The report underlines that sustainable transport “could increase global GDP by US$2.6 trillion” (p.7).

Recommendations on policy development and implementation, financing and technology

The report delivers ten recommendations so as to seize those opportunities. Experts advise decision-makers to direct transport policies towards sustainable development by adopting an integrated approach to transport planning. The three dimensions of sustainable development must be considered. Policies should focus on creating supportive governance both at the national and local levels, developing technical capacity in developing countries and promoting public engagement. Moreover, designing monitoring and evaluation frameworks to improve transport performance measuring is essential. Lastly, the report calls for an appropriate fiscal framework and efficient investments in sustainable transport. Investments should rely on diversified and international funding sources (development and climate funds). They must support technological innovations, which are crucial for sustainable transport.

The UN Global Sustainable Transport Conference (26-27 November 2016, Turkmenistan) followed the report release.

Please click here to read the report.