Today the transport sector is responsible for approximately one quarter of all energy related greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions. In addition, more cities, especially in developing and transitional countries, are experiencing serious air quality problems. Especially worrisome is the rapidly increasing fleet of private vehicles, which will take place in developing countries. In addition, the global vehicle fleet is expected to triple by 2050 and most of the growth will occur in developing and transition countries that have immature vehicle emission reduction strategies
Whilst governments are increasingly active with regards to air pollution and reducing the energy used by the transport sector, there is often a large gap between the technology available and best practice know-how, the networks necessary to build consensus and the actual implementation of transformative change. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) employs a 3-fold strategy to address externalities from road transport; namely Avoid-Shift-Improve. By designing our work around these 3 pillars, UNEP is ensuring:
- Reduced and avoided demand for emission-intensive transport modes while facilitating the increased mobility of people, goods and information and ensuring that efficient transport is devised around smart infrastructure and mobility planning;
- A shift from more energy intensive and environmentally harmful modes of transport to less polluting and more efficient modes; for example, public transport and non motorized transport;
- Reduced impact through improved, cleaner transport technology and policy solutions.
Below are brief descriptions of the four flagship UNEP programmes that are founded on the ‘avoid-shift-improve’ approach;
1. Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles (PCFV)
The partnership focuses on the ‘Improve’ aspect of UNEP’s approach. It is the leading global initiative to promote cleaner fuels and cleaner, more efficient vehicles in developing and transitional countries. The PCFV provides a range of technical, financial and networking support for governments and other stakeholders to lower vehicle emissions – both CO2 and non-CO2. Fuel quality directly affects tailpipe emissions. Sulphur levels in diesel contribute to a large percentage of particulate or soot emissions in cities, in addition to atmosphere-warming black carbon emissions. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has formally classified diesel exhaust as carcinogenic to humans. The PCFV actively works with countries to adopt lead-free, low sulphur fuels and support the reduction of vehicle emission reductions.
The PCFV has three campaigns;
- The global elimination of leaded gasoline
- To reduce sulphur in vehicle fuels to 50 ppm or below worldwide
- The adoption of clean vehicles and cleaner, more efficient vehicle technologies
Since its inception the PCFV has directly supported implementation on the ground in every region of the globe in 155 countries including at regional and sub regional level.
In its successful lead elimination campaign, over 80 countries have been supported in addressing and promoting the phase out of the lead issue.
2. Global Fuel Economy Initiative (GFEI)
In order to avoid a proportionate growth in both greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions, improvements in automotive fuel economy are essential. This initiative also uses the ‘Improve’ approach to reducing air pollution.The GFEI aims for a doubling of global vehicle fuel efficiency by 2050 as an integral contribution to a low carbon economy and greener transport systems. Within the GFEI, UNEP leads in supporting developing and transitional countries to develop clean and more efficient vehicle policies and programs to reduce vehicular emissions in line with internationally agreed targets. To date, the GFEI has worked with over a dozen countries to help them design and implement auto fuel economy policies to lower greenhouse gas emissions and reduce energy costs.
3. Non Motorised Transport (NMT), ‘Share the Road’
Share the Road is the UNEP-led initiative that advocates a systematic inclusion on NMT infrastructure in urban road investments as a matter of policy; from this perspective it focuses on avoiding the need for transport modes that influence air quality deterioration, through the promotion of planned investment in road infrastructure development and rehabilitation. The initiative also supports the ‘shift’ approach by supporting best practice non motorized transport designs that ensure not only reduced environmental impact, but also enhance safety and accessibility for users. The programme is currently active in the East Africa sub-regional and outcomes have included policy change in Kenya for mandatory NMT inclusion, as well as best practice case studies for NMT design.
4. Public Transport
Improvements in the public transport sector provide the largest opportunity for avoiding future transport emissions and an optimal development pathway for the transport sector. An efficient and clean public transport system has low specific energy consumption and emission per passenger/ goods per kilometer travelled/transported. Public transport (buses, light rail, metros, and trains) uses less space for transporting goods and services as opposed to private vehicles – creating an optimal land use management for social and economic activities while protecting the environment.Promoting public transportation systems also falls within UNEP’s strategy on mode –shifting that is to promote a shift from private motor vehicle use to public transport and non-motorized transport in urban areas through better planning and infrastructure. This involves:
- Rethinking transport systems, promoting inter-modality and encouraging the use of the most energy efficient mode of transport, i.e., wherever possible switch from air to rail, from the personal vehicle to public transport or non-motorized transportation;
- The diffusion of cleaner technologies and the deployment of relevant policies that drive them to reduce environmental impacts
- And, mobilizing investment in mass transit technologies, in particular Bus Rapid Transit systems.