At Africa Transport Forum, UN urges action on road safety & climate

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UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has urged greater action in Africa to tackle road traffic injuries, air pollution and the climate impact of transport.

Speaking at the opening of the African Sustainable Transport Forum, attended by ministers and senior officials from more than 40 African countries, Mr Ban said that a transition to sustainable transport would be vital for delivering the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals and solutions to the climate change crisis. He highlighted the health and social consequences fo failing to deliver justice for the millions of Africans without access to safe transportation: “People depend on transport in a myriad of ways. Yet so many people lack any transport whatsoever. More than half of Africa’s people have no option than to walk long distances, at times in unsafe conditions, to work, school or hospitals. As the economies of Africa continue to grow, we have an opportunity to avoid the negative environmental, social and economic consequences of unsustainable transport.”

Ministers at the Forum, opened by Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, adopted a roadmap to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport in Africa. This plan aims for a comprehensive approach including promoting the use of low-emission non-motorised transport, encouraging the development of quality public transport and increasing investment in clean technologies. The Africa Sustainable Transport Forum, with a secretariat hosted by UNEP, is intended to provide a platform for high-level attention and policy dialogue on access to environmentally sustainable transport in Africa. The goal of the Forum will be to integrate sustainable transport into the region’s development and planning processes and increase the amount of funding going to sustainable transport programs in Africa – to improve access to transport, reduce air pollution and climate emissions, and improve road safety and health.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director said:

"The transport sector is now the fastest growing source of energy related climate emissions in the world, and is expected to make up one-third of energy related climate emissions by 2050. These emissions are key contributors to a global air pollution crisis that is killing 7 million people a year - four times the impact of HIV Aids and malaria together, according to the World Health Organisation. At the same time, experts recognise that reducing climate emissions from transport may actually be easier than from most other sectors.

This forum is our chance to find ways of not just putting an end to many of these preventable deaths, but to also invent the transport sectors of tomorrow, today, here in Africa.

Road safety is a serious concern here in Africa where we have the highest rates of road fatalities in the world, and according to the World Bank, road deaths are set to increase in Sub-Saharan Africa by 80 per cent by 2020 if road conditions and traffic safety are not improved.

This Forum comes at the right time. Governments are completing the drafting of a new global development framework - the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs. Sustainable transport can be a major contributor to these SDGs, which now include targets on air quality, climate mitigation, road safety, and sustainable urbanisation, among others.”

Welcoming the launch of the Forum, Saul Billingsley, Director General of the FIA Foundation, said:

“With targets for road safety, fuel efficiency and air quality included in the draft SDGs, this new Forum can play an important role in building political commitment and encouraging implementation in Africa. Our Foundation is collaborating with UNEP on the ‘Share the Road’ initiative to improve policies for walking and cycling in African cities, and non-motorised transport has rightly been identified as having a vital role in tackling climate change and improving road safety. Through the Global Fuel Economy Initiative and the Partnership for Clean Fuels & Vehicles we are helping African governments to improve both fuel efficiency and fuel quality, to combat greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution from vehicles. Our pilot initiatives for safe routes to schools in South Africa and Tanzania are building the evidence base for widespread action to keep children – and Africa’s next generation - safe on the road and are closely linked to the advocacy for safer road infrastructure by the International Road Assessment Programme. We urge African governments and international donor institutions to build on this Forum for sustainable transport by actually delivering policies that put people first in urban and transport planning.”

Read UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s speech to the Africa Sustainable Transport Forum

Read UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner’s speech to the Africa Sustainable Transport Forum