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Transport for Sustainable Development - The case of Inland Transport

Published: September 2015

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The publication titled "Transport for Sustainable Development: The case of Inland Transport” is the result of the cooperation among the five Regional Commissions of the United Nations and key global stakeholders, particularly, the International Road Transport Union (IRU) and the International Union of Railways (UIC), led by UNECE.

The study examines issues, progress and challenges in global efforts to achieve the transition to sustainable mobility of freight and people using inland modes of transport, i.e. road, railways, inland waterways and intermodal transport. While transport is a precondition for social and economic interactions, unfortunately it has negative impacts, i.e. road crashes, air and noise pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. Through a wealth of good and best practices the study show-cases results in mitigating these negative impacts, and also identifies main challenges and opportunities to accelerate transition to sustainability. It promotes an in-depth and real-world understanding of the five defining dimensions of sustainable transport – accessibility, affordability, safety, security and environmental performance. Based on this definition of sustainable transport and mobility, the study brings forth theoretical insights and best practices from all regions of the world and thus maps similarities and differences among countries of different income groupings and geographical regions in their efforts towards sustainability of the transport sector.

A common element is that transport is central in shifting to sustainable low carbon societies but a high level of political will is needed to decouple its growth from impacts like air pollution, traffic accidents and climate change. Statistics analysed in the study show that only UNECE countries managed to decrease the per capita CO2 emissions from transport in the decade 2001-2011, but they are responsible for roughly 50 per cent of the total, so further progress is needed. Vis-à-vis the link between increasing level of motorization and fatalities, only UNECE countries have achieved absolute decoupling of the two (i.e. the latter decreases while the former increases), while two other regions (UNECLAC and UNESCWA) have achieved relative decoupling (the latter increases at a slower pace than the former) and the remaining two regions (UNECA and UNESCAP) have not yet achieved decoupling.

Transport is central to development and a driver of sustainable growth by providing access to markets and supply chains. Yet, many people do not have access to affordable and clean transport, and many countries lack efficient and affordable access to world markets. In order to achieve the transition to sustainable mobility it is warranted that political and financial priorities are granted to the reform and development of inland transport.

Table of contents :


1. Sustainable Development and Transport

2. General Trends Controlling Transport Growth and Demand

3. Accessibility

4. Affordability: Affordable Mobility for Individuals and Societies

5. Transport Safety

6. Transport Security

7. Inland Transport and the Environment

8. Intermodal Transport and Modal Shift

9. United Nations International Transport Agreements and Conventions

10. Sustainable Development: The Current Situation and the Way Forward

11. Our Commitment to Sustainable Transport