The United Nations High Level Advisory Group on Sustainable Transport has presented its results. The experts call for a well-thought-out future strategy with environmentally friendly engines, a reduction of unnecessary routes and better infrastructure. Logistics connects people and places with the rest of the world, making it one of the main drivers of economic and social development. However, it is never an end in itself, but only an important tool. Under these premises, a 16-member United Nations commission of experts developed proposals for a sustainable transport industry. At the end of 2016 it presented the first “Global Sustainable Transport Outlook Report” by the title of “Mobilizing Sustainable Transport for Development”. It contains a series of targeted recommendations explaining how the transport industry can forge ahead with sustainable development with a particular emphasis on the reduction of poverty, while promoting economic growth and combating climate change. It is thus that the commission proposes the future principle of “Avoid – Shift – Improve” for all infrastructural and technical developments in the transport sector. So, what’s it all about?
“Avoid” means the avoidance of long transport routes and unnecessary travel. Therefore, the experts recommend city planners to focus in future on highly compact dimensions and short routes, while supply chain managers should pay attention to lean supply chains, and modern means of communication should be used for the interaction between business partners. In concrete terms: more tele or video-conferencing, use of local products and a lot of space for public transport, to name just a few examples.
“Shift” is focused primarily on users. These are to use environmentally friendly means of transport whenever possible, or generally change their usage in such a way as to make better use of existing resources. Examples include intelligently combining rail and air transport, or travelling and transporting goods outside of peak hours, which reduces congestion and emissions.
“Improve” is the technical aspect of the strategy. The aim is to make all modes of transport more environmentally friendly through a whole series of measures. These range from better infrastructure (i.e. short distances and measures to avoid congestion) to financial incentives for environmental protection and the conversion of entire vehicle fleets to zero emission engines.
The effects of a sustainable transport industry are enormous, according to the UN commission. It estimates a reduction of seven gigatons of CO2 emissions, and a decline in road deaths of several hundred thousand per year if all states rigorously implement the strategy. This would require additional annual investments worldwide in the range of two trillion dollars. For comparison: Between 1.4 and 2.1 trillion dollars are invested into the transport sector every year already today. But the additional expenditure pays off, as a sustainable transport industry would generate public savings of up to 70 trillion dollars by 2050 at the same time.