Experts seek sustainability solutions to freight transport

16 novembre 2018

UNCTAD convenes meeting on ways to build sustainability into freight transport systems, including shipping, to boost trade with and between developing countries.

Governments, shipping companies and trading industries will need to balance economic, social and environmental concerns to achieve sustainability in maritime transport, experts will say at an UNCTAD meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, on 21–23 November.

The Multi-year Expert Meeting on Transport, Trade Logistics and Trade Facilitation comes just months after the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a United Nations specialized agency responsible for the safety, security and cleanliness of shipping, adopted an initial strategy on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from ships.

The IMO decarbonization strategy represents the first global framework for shipping and follows the commitments made by countries in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change in 2015.

freight transport

Sustainable transport encompasses three dimensions: the economy (an efficient and competitive transport sector); society (an inclusive transport industry that leaves no one behind); and the environment (clean transport that does not pollute the planet).

Growing momentum on sustainability and climate action, rising awareness about the strategic role of maritime transport, and rapid growth in innovative technological advances, are making the balancing of these three dimensions more and more possible.

“The exponential growth and potential of digitalization entail a transformative effect on the world as we know it. Digitalization is already reshaping the transport and logistics operating landscape and, depending on its pace and extent, will ultimately redefine the underlying business models,” Shamika N. Sirimanne, UNCTAD’s director of technology and logistics, said.

“In the run up to the next international climate meeting, COP 24, at the beginning of December in Poland, everyone involved in transport and trade logistics needs to come together and put sustainability at the top of the agenda,” she said.

On its opening day on 21 November, participants at the expert meeting will consider the state of play of the climate discussions at the IMO and the operational, technical and policy aspects of decarbonization in international shipping, including market-based mechanisms like carbon pricing.

On the move

The first day’s sessions are co-organized with the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition, which brings together leaders from government, private sector, academia, and civil society to reflect on potential use of carbon pricing policies, and benefit from the participation of World Bank Group and IMO experts, and representatives from developing countries, industry and non-governmental organizations.

These sessions will allow participants to scrutinize the “decarbonization agenda” and exchange views on its possible implications.

The strategic construction of integrated land transit corridors linked with ports to scale up sustainable freight transport will be discussed on the second day. Officials from transit corridors in Africa will discuss their experiences on this topic as well as their cooperation with UNCTAD to help them to better understand, develop and implement the strategies and policies that build the sustainability of their transport systems.

With small island developing states, such as those in the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, depending on marine transport for their livelihood and on climate action for their resilience, the second session of the meeting will add their voice to the debate and focus on the sustainability and resilience strategies they and their international partners might adopt.

Sessions on the final day of the meeting will concentrate on the rise of the digitalization of the cross-border movement of goods and the simplification of administrative processes. Participants will also discuss the increasing relevance to shipping, ports and airports of innovations such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, the internet of things and automation.

A highlight of the meeting will be the presentation on 23 November of a commemorative companion volume to UNCTAD’s Review of Maritime Transport, which marked its 50th year of publication in 2018.