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UNECE supports improved data quality and comparability to monitor SDG progress on transport

With the adoption of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), United Nations Member States approved over 230 different indicators for measuring the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. While some of these indicators are based on well-known concepts with well-established data collection processes and methodologies, others have much less clear measurement structures in place.

One such indicator is 9.1.2, which tracks passenger and freight volumes, by mode of transport. This sounds reasonably straightforward, but many issues related to compilation are currently unanswered. For example, should national values include all journeys on a country’s territory (territorial basis) or all of its vehicles regardless of where the movement took place (residency principle)? There is also an open question of what this indicator is trying to measure: are ever-increasing passenger and freight volumes the desired outcome? Or is the “modal split” (i.e. the relative shares of different transport modes), with their varying levels of negative externalities, a more relevant focus? The environmental impact varies significantly between goods travelling on an inland waterway vessel, train, ship, aeroplane, pipeline or lorry. Similarly, when measuring passenger numbers, transport safety and urban congestion factors (for buses, private cars, trains and aeroplanes) need to be considered too.

That’s where UNECE comes in. Last week, the Working Party on Transport Statistics (WP.6), a body under the Inland Transport Committee of UNECE, discussed these issues and agreed that better compilation guidance was needed, at both the international level (where the SDGs will be measured) and the national level (where national SDG progress can be tracked, in particular through the use of SDG National Reporting Platforms).

The session saw presentations from the Netherlands, Eurostat and UNCTAD on various issues related to monitoring this indicator. During the session, countries and other relevant international organizations discussed reporting issues for this indicator and how best to improve the situation at the global and national levels.

Following these discussions, UNECE will be collating country practices and ideas for metadata improvements, and will publish the results as guidance on inland transport data compilation for SDG indicator 9.1.2, with the aim of increasing data quality and comparability on both the national and global levels. This would complement existing transport statistics methodologies available, such as the Glossary for Transport Statistics, and would be a first in providing international modal split compilation guidance. UNECE will also continue to collaborate on data production with the co-custodians for this indicator, the International Civil Aviation Organization and the International Transport Forum. UNECE is also continuing to raise the profile of data already produced on the transport-related SDGs through a series of SDG papers.

Facilitating expert discussions, bringing countries together and providing guidance on statistics, UNECE aims to help member States mainstream the transport-related SDGs into national policy frameworks, reflecting the Inland Transport Committee’s strategic role as the UN home for inland transport.

For more information, please visit: https://www.unece.org/trans/welcome.html