A United Nations regional forum opened today with a sharp focus on how to enhance transport connectivity in Asia and the Pacific and make it greener and inclusive, particularly in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and other crises.
“Our estimates show that under business as usual, Asia and the Pacific will experience a drastic increase in carbon dioxide emissions, up to 87 per cent in some parts of our region. But the situation can change drastically if governments implement policy measures that encourage changes in the behavior of transport users, uptake of cleaner energy and vehicle technologies, digitalization to improve transport efficiency, and infrastructure investment to help meet environmental and social development goals,” Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), said in her opening remarks to the seventh session of the Committee on Transport.
Government officials, representatives of international organizations, civil society and other stakeholders will take stock of the current status of regional transport and discuss strategic issues of transport development and the formulation of regional policies to advance sustainable, safe, resilient and low-carbon transport in the region.
“As the world faces the unprecedented challenges from the ongoing climate crisis, the continued impacts of the COVID-19 pandemics and other regional and global challenges, we urgently need collective determination and cooperation to accelerate the implementation of SDGs. Thailand shares the critical ambition to overcome those challenges and has been committed to achieving sustainable transport development,” said Chayatan Phromsorn, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Transport of Thailand, delivering a statement on behalf of Saksayam Chidchob, Minister of Transport.
Considering the pandemic and other disruptive events, preserving and enhancing land and maritime transport connectivity must go hand-in-hand with addressing the environmental and social dimensions of freight transport activities and bridging the widening connectivity gaps in Asia and the Pacific. With that in mind, the Committee will deliberate on enhancing sustainability, resilience and efficiency of freight transport along the regional transport network, including the Asian Highway Network, the Trans-Asian Railway Network and Dry Ports. The Committee will also discuss regional approaches to sustainable, multimodal freight transport and to connecting to global supply chains through land and shipping corridors. To maximize the contribution of freight transport to the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals, the Committee will consider the guiding principles on sustainable freight transport in Asia and the Pacific.
According to ESCAP studies, there is a strong need to accelerate the transition of the transport sector to be more environmentally sustainable; in the Asia-Pacific region, movement of freight and people accounted for more than half of total oil consumption in 2019 and contributed to nearly 14 per cent of total CO2 emissions.
Delegates are expected to support the establishment of a regional cooperation mechanism on low-carbon transport as mandated by the Regional Action Programme for Sustainable Transport Development in Asia and the Pacific (2022–2026), as well as the Asia-Pacific initiative on electric mobility to accelerate transition to electric mobility for public transport in the region and reduce transport-related emissions.
The Committee is also set to review progress in achieving the goal of the Second Decade of Action for Road Safety (2021-2030) to reducing road traffic fatalities and injuries by at least 50 per cent between 2021 and 2030 and endorse the Regional Plan of Action for Asia and the Pacific for the Second Decade of Action for Road Safety.
In addition, the Committee will deliberate on measures that will support socially inclusive planning and design of transport services, infrastructure and systems, workforce diversity and a just transition to sustainable transport, that can measurably contribute to reducing poverty and inequality in the region.