Sustainable Freight Transport and Finance

Sustainable transport has long been recognized as a key development objective at various global forums, including the 1992 Earth Summit, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (RIO+20), UNCTAD XIII, and, more recently, by the United Nations General Assembly resolution on the "Role of transport and transit corridors in ensuring international cooperation, stability and sustainable development".

In addition to recognizing the importance of sustainability in transport, a United Nations Secretary-General High-level Advisory Group on Sustainable Transport has been established to provide recommendations on sustainable transport that are actionable at global, national and local as well as at sector levels.

Existing definitions of sustainable transport may vary and promote one particular dimension such as the environment (green transport), society (inclusive transport) or the economic dimension (efficient and competitive transport). Generally however, sustainable freight transport aims to balance the economic, social and environmental dimensions of the sector in an integrated manner to ensure synergies, complementarities and coherence.

While not intended as an exhaustive list, sustainable freight systems entail, among other features, the ability to provide transportation that is safe, socially inclusive, accessible, reliable, affordable, fuel-efficient, environmentally friendly, low-carbon, and resilient to vulnerabilities, shocks and disruptions, including those caused by climate change and natural disasters.

The figure below illustrates the intersection between the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development as applicable to freight transport.


The three pillars of sustainable freight transport


sustainable freight transport 


UNCTAD has long recognized the multiple dimensions of freight transport.

Over recent years, in particular since UNCTAD XII and UNCTAD XIII, UNCTAD has carried out relevant work along its three pillars of work to help developing countries to achieve greater sustainability and resilience in their freight transport sector.

This includes the UNCTAD XIII side event panel discussion "Paving the Way for Sustainable Freight Transport" held on 25th April 2012 at the UNCTAD XIII Conference in Doha, Qatar.

UNCTAD will continue to assist developing countries, in particular least developed countries (LDCs), landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) and small island developing states (SIDS) in making informed policy choices to address the emerging environmental and social challenges in relation to transport strategies, and to provide associated capacity-building needs and appropriate policy responses.

As part of its activities, UNCTAD has developed a dedicated training toolkit entitled Sustainable Freight Transport and Finance Toolkit (SFTF-Toolkit).



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The Toolkit

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