unctad.org | Civil society: UNCTAD has a role to play in mainstreaming sustainability criteria into freight transport systems
Civil society: UNCTAD has a role to play in mainstreaming sustainability criteria into freight transport systems
05 November 2015
FreightTransport

​Speakers from civil society shared their views on the key messages and takeaways from this year's Expert Meeting on Transport, Trade Logistics and Trade Facilitation, which focused on making freight transport more sustainable.



Without transport, trade would not be possible--and the global economy would come to a halt. Making freight transport more cost-effective and efficient is therefore a priority for economic growth and integration.

But given freight transport's impact on the environment, especially in the form of air pollution and greenhouse gases, the sector must also cut emissions and reduce its carbon footprint.

With the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the upcoming United Nations Conference on Climate Change, the freight transport sector has a unique opportunity to further assert its significance as a trade enabler, and highlight its importance for social progress, environmental protection and climate change.

In this context, UNCTAD decided to focus this year's Multi-year Expert Meeting on Transport, Trade Logistics and Trade Facilitation on the topic of how to make freight transport systems more sustainable.

Held from 14-16 October in Geneva, the meeting brought together representatives from governments, international organizations, the transport industry academia and civil society to discuss the challenges and opportunities associated with sustainable freight transport infrastructure and services.

Following the meeting, three of the invited speakers shared their thoughts on the theme and how the meeting could contribute to their organizations' work on sustainable freight transport.
 
Sophie Punte  
Sophie Punte
Executive Director, Smart Freight Centre


How does your organization's work relate to the meeting's theme?

Smart Freight Centre is a global NGO dedicated to removing market barriers--such as the lack of global standards to calculate emissions--that prevent the global freight sector from becoming more environmentally sustainable and competitive. 

The solutions we work on that are relevant for developing countries include designing green freight programs, creating a common way of calculating freight emissions across the global supply chain, and developing an approach for industry-wide adoption of proven technologies and measures that have a significant impact on fuel consumption and emissions.

What was the key message you hoped to convey during your presentation?

To make their freight sector more efficient and environmentally sustainable, developing countries should focus on their specific needs. For some it may be better infrastructure, but for others the priority may be improved road safety or air quality. They should build on what already exists in their countries, such as vehicle maintenance and emissions testing centres, research institutes and training programmes. And they should use what's already available elsewhere, such as policies, plans, training materials and green freight programmes, but adapt these solutions to their specific situation. We believe strongly in the importance of tailoring solutions to the needs of developing countries, and linking them up with experiences and experts from around the world.

In your opinion, how could the meeting contribute to your organization's work on sustainable freight transport?

Industry needs governments to create the conditions for green freight to flourish, for example through better infrastructure, supportive policies and green freight programs. UNCTAD has the ability to bring governments and industry together as a group, build consensus, and assist countries in putting the right policies and programmes in place. We hope that UNCTAD, together with other relevant UN agencies, continues to play this role and helps address the important barriers that industry faces to making freight transport more efficient and sustainable.


Cornie Huizenga  
Cornie Huizenga
Secretary General, Partnership on Sustainable, Low Carbon Transport (SLoCat)


How does your organization's work relate to the meeting's theme?

SLoCat is a multi-stakeholder partnership that promotes the integration of sustainable transport in global policies on sustainable development and climate change. The partnership includes over 90 organizations representing UN organizations, multilateral and bilateral development organizations, NGOs and foundations, academia, and the business sector.

We are coordinating the Paris Process on Mobility and Climate, which was created to strengthen the voice of the sustainable transport community in the process of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, especially in the upcoming Conference of Parties (COP21) in Paris in December 2015. The aim is to convene transport stakeholders in support of an ambitious global agreement on climate change that empowers the transport sector to take action.

What was the key message you hoped to convey during your presentation?

There is no solution to the climate change problem without the active involvement of the transport sector. Freight transport is responsible for 40 per cent of CO2 emissions and thus must be part of any proposed solution. At the same time, a genuine debate on how to make freight transport more sustainable is necessary if trade--which is not possible without transport--is going to do its part to help achieve the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals.

Ambitious action is feasible now. The concepts to lower greenhouse gas emissions from freight transport and improve its overall sustainability are already there and have been piloted. What is needed now is to scale them up, and this requires a greater willingness among governments and others to take action.

In your opinion, how could the meeting contribute to your organization's work on sustainable freight transport?

The interest shown by UNCTAD in the topic of sustainable freight transport is key in building a broad multi-stakeholder alliance on the issue. Having an institutional anchor in the UN system can help us advance the policy discussions with countries.


Simon Bennett  
Simon Bennett
Director, Policy and External Relations, International Chamber of Shipping


How does your organization's work relate to the meeting's theme?

We are the global trade association of ship operators, including the 70% of the world fleet registered with flag states in emerging economies and less developed countries, and represent the shipping industry at bodies such as the International Maritime Organization and the International Labour Organization. As such, we take a close interest in the Sustainable Development Goals and their application to international shipping.

We are especially interested in getting the balance right between the three pillars of sustainable development. If maritime transport is not economically sustainable, it will be very difficult to deliver on the social and environmental goals that shipping has accepted.

What was the key message you hoped to convey during your presentation?

In the context of the UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris in December, it is important that less developed countries recognize that the International Maritime Organization is the only forum where detailed regulations concerning further CO2 reductions by ships can be agreed in a manner that takes account of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change's principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibility, while at the same time reconciling this with the need for uniform global rules for international shipping.

In your opinion, how could the meeting contribute to your organization's work on sustainable freight transport?

By underscoring the importance of low maritime transport costs for the economic pillar of sustainable development, which according to ICS could be undermined if the maritime sector is treated like an OECD nation with respect to the ambition of the CO2 reductions it is expected to achieve.


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