Strategic action to deliver green, efficient and inclusive transport

Even conferences, academics and government staff are saying it:  action is now the priority. Much has been said, many studies have been launched, and numerous potential pathways have been identified. Now is the time for acting on what can make a difference in improving equitable and sustainable accessibility. This will require bold but straightforward decisions: for instance, if cities want to increase cycling, they actually need to make space for cyclists, as noted Minister Schmidt.

If countries are to deliver on the potential for decarbonisation and on their pledges for the Paris Climate agreement, they will have to identify where policies are working at odds to each other. It makes little sense, for example, to promote the deployment of high quality public transport while at the same time continuing fiscal regimes that encourage employers to offer company cars. One of the first actions that governments can take in this area is to inventory contradictory policies and identify a path forward to a coherent policy framework in support of green and equitable transport.

Investments will be necessary and these will have to be aligned with objectives for green and inclusive growth. Given the often underestimated societal costs of inequitable access to opportunities, investments that improve affordability of mobility  services for low income households and provide access for disadvantaged parts of cities should receive much higher priority than they do today in many regions. These investments should also be guided by criteria that take into account a broader understanding of the contributions of transport to society than has traditionally been the case. This may mean looking at how investments improve equitable access across regions rather than looking solely at potential time savings.

Action will also be required in a number of technical fields, especially as new technologies and the innovative services these render possible become a reality. There is a clear need for rapid and concerted action in developing technical operating standards in such fields as vehicle automation, as well as in the regulation of new business cases that are enabled by autonomous driving. Further uptake of standards in the field of international shipping and aviation can also help these sectors contribute to environmental sustainability while they grow to offer better services around the globe and at prices affordable to everyone.

Whilst a carbon tax would drive the global economy towards sustainability as Gabriela Ramos underlined, the history of taxes being used to raise money rather than steer development compromises their practical value. Tony Tyler noted that alternatives such as the market based mechanism based on regulated carbon offsets proposed for international aviation in effect put a price on carbon. Decisions will be made before the end of the year in both the international maritime and aviation sectors on how climate change commitments will be delivered and there is a continuing need for Transport, Infrastructure and Energy Ministers to develop a strong evidence base to support decision-making and maintain confidence in the policies adopted.