The UN Sustainable Transport Conference began in Beijing on Thursday with the government leaders, industry experts and civil society groups charting a sustainable pathway forward.

The conference is being held to ensure the rapid development and deployment of new and innovative transport solutions to meet the climate crisis and spearhead action towards affordable and accessible transport for all.

While science shows that urgent action is needed to keep the 1.5 degrees Celsius temperature limit within reach to prevent greater climate impacts, the world is still grappling with Covid-19, which has disrupted global supply chains, reversed years of development progress and has pushed around 120 million people back into poverty.

The UN Sustainable Transport Conference, taking place from October 14 to 16, will seek to provide concrete solutions for how we plan and design transport systems to ensure the pathway to achieving sustainable transport — transport that is safe, accessible, green and resilient — is at the scale and speed required.

While there is increasing recognition that sustainable transport can spur economic growth and protect the environment — global sales of electric vehicles grew from 1.3 million in 2015 to 5.1 million in 2018 — progress has been slow and unequal.

According to the World Bank, a transition to sustainable mobility could deliver savings of $70 trillion by 2050, when considering full transport costs, including vehicles, fuel, operational expenses, and losses due to congestion.

Better access to roads could help Africa become self-sufficient in food and create a regional food market worth $1 trillion by 2030.

“Efforts to accelerate the sustainable transformation of the transport sector are essential to reduce climate-causing emissions and improve the lives and livelihoods of people everywhere,” said Liu Zhenmin, Under Secretary-General of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the conference Secretary-General.

“The Sustainable Transport Conference in Beijing will sharpen our focus on transport, an area where global efforts can make a deep impact across the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.”

While transport is a core driver for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and provides communities with an opportunity to access employment, healthcare services and attend schools, current systems of mobility present a number of challenges.

Transport is one of the single largest contributors to air and carbon pollution emissions globally, also accounting for about 64 per cent of total oil consumption and 27 per cent of all energy use.

Over 1 billion people worldwide still lack adequate access to an all-weather road, especially in developing countries, including countries in special situations.

In Africa, 450 million people, more than 70 per cent of the total rural population, remain unconnected to transport infrastructure and systems. Whereas road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death among young people aged 15 to 29.

The UN Sustainable Transport Conference comes at a pivotal moment in the lead up to the Climate Change Conference in Glasgow.

It will provide an opportunity to stress the urgency of overhauling transport systems to respond to the climate crisis as well as the criticality of sustainable transport for spurring economic growth and empowering vulnerable populations through better access to healthcare, education, and jobs.

Governments, businesses, and experts in the transport field will gather at the conference to discuss the challenges and opportunities as well as solutions that exist to supercharge the transition to sustainable transport.

Countries, businesses and communities are using the power of technology and innovation to improve their transport systems and make them more sustainable.

From the volocopter, an all-electric air taxi in Germany, to electrified bus networks in China to the rapid sale growth of electric vehicles in the US, a transport revolution has begun.

The Covid-19 pandemic has also prompted many cities to build more bicycle lanes and G20 countries have committed over $284 billion to the mobility industry.



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