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UNECE supports countries’ sustainable transport transition through Environmental Performance Reviews

Transport can be a powerful driver of sustainable development, but this requires balancing its economic and social value with environmental and health considerations.

In order to help meet this challenge, UNECE’s Environmental Performance Reviews (EPRs) assist countries in taking an integrated approach to promoting sustainable transport systems, addressing a broad range of transport-related development issues and identifying possible solutions.

These range from embracing holistic multi-modal transport systems, to creating favorable regulatory and policy frameworks and incentives for sustainable transport development and enhancing transport infrastructure. EPRs also identify means to tackle air emissions from the transport sector, to address transport-related impacts of climate change and facilitate effective adaptation, and promote road safety for all road users.

These were among the key themes explored by experts from the Caucasus (Georgia), Central Asia (Tajikistan) and Eastern and South-Eastern Europe (Albania, Montenegro and Ukraine), who gathered in Tbilisi, Georgia, to share good practices in transitioning to sustainable transport on the basis of recommendations arising from UNECE EPRs. The workshop, held on 14 December 2017, was organized as part of broader UNECE support to the integration of environmental aspects in transport policies and practice and to reinforce human and technical capacity for delivering on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the region. UNECE joined forces with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Georgia for the occasion.

Exchanging experience and strategies in the transition to sustainable transport systems

A common challenge for countries of the Caucasus, Central Asia and Eastern and South-Eastern Europe highlighted in their EPRs is the lack of adequate regulatory, policy and institutional  frameworks; the need to develop an appropriate infrastructure in support of sustainable transport system; and the predominant number of old vehicles both in private and public use. Other common issues include the lack of transport-related implementation policies and financial mechanisms to support effectively and efficiently the transition to sustainable transportation.

Due to these similarities, countries from the region had a lot to share and learn from each other. UNECE presented its tools to support countries’ efforts to make transport more sustainable, including the ForFITS (For Future Inland Transport Systems) mechanism making it possible to estimate and assess CO2 emissions from transport and to evaluate transport policies for CO2 emissions mitigation.

UNDP Georgia presented a project on “Green Cities: Integrated Sustainable Urban Transport for the City of Batumi and the Adjara Region” which could be replicated by other cities.

Experts from Tajikistan presented progress made in the transition to sustainable transport since the third EPR carried out in 2016, with a particular focus on building transport infrastructure in the mountainous country to reduce driving times, in some cases from 14 to 4 hours, thereby considerably decreasing pollutant emissions into the air.

The workshop provided a forum for countries to share experiences in the implementation of transport-related EPR recommendations and explore challenges and strategies covering key issues, including: pathways for the transition to sustainable transport systems taking into account the specificity of national transport sectors; the importance of establishing and enforcing standards for retrofitting cars to run on natural gas; and promoting the development of the transport sector while limiting environmental and health impacts.

It was also an occasion for fruitful exchange on push and pull measures and incentives to help change attitudes towards sustainable transport, exploring initiatives such as zero fees for electric cars, increasing taxes and fees for old vehicles and for parking in the urban areas, voluntary car-free-days, car sharing and telecommuting.

Countries unanimously identified sustainable transport as a prerequisite to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in a cross-cutting manner. Given the central role of transportation in contemporary society, countries recognized the importance of ensuring the active participation of actors in all areas and at all levels in this transition.