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Next Steps After Copenhagen: Transportation

A wrap-up of key messages from EMBARQ's Transforming Transportation 2010.

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Last Friday, January 15, 180 transport and climate change experts from local and national governments, multi-lateral development agencies, academic institutions, nonprofits and private companies gathered in Washington, D.C. to discuss “Next Steps After Copenhagen: Opportunities and Challenges in the Transport Sector” as part of the annual Transforming Transportation conference.

The full-day event, held at the Inter-American Development Bank headquarters, came one month after the international community met in Copenhagen to negotiate the next phase of the Kyoto Protocol and a new international climate agreement on reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. The event was jointly organized by the Asian Development Bank, EMBARQ – The World Resources Institute Center for Sustainable Transport, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the Partnership on Sustainable Low Carbon Transport.

The day’s events, hosted at IDB’s Enrique Iglesias Auditorium, provided a forum for the transport, climate and development communities to discuss the following topics:

  • How the transport community can best engage in solving the challenges caused by climate change;
  • Connections between climate change and other drivers of transport interventions in developing countries;
  • Outcomes of the Climate Conference in Copenhagen and significance for national and local policy making in the transport sector.

Organizers drafted key messages that will help inform the following initiatives, including:

  • The United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) discussion and policy guidelines on sustainability in the transport sector;
  • The Regional Environmental Sustainable Transportation Strategy of the Inter-American Development Bank;
  • The 2010-2011 work plan for the Partnership on Sustainable, Low Carbon Transport.

The key messages from the event Next Steps After Copenhagen are:

#1: Climate change mitigation efforts need to address emissions from the transport sector in developing countries in order to limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels by 2050, a target suggested by the IPCC and referred to by the Copenhagen Accord.

#2: Decision making in the transport sector should consider multiple policy objectives in support of sustainable development, including adaptation to climate change, greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, economic and social development, congestion relief, road safety, air quality and health.

#3: Countries can take important steps towards sustainable, low carbon transportation now, before the international community reaches a new international climate agreement or revised Kyoto Protocol. Leading developing countries and cities have initiated efforts to make their transport sectors less carbon intensive or, in some cases, completely carbon neutral.

#4: The allocation of transport-related funds requires a paradigm shift. The guiding principle in future transport funding should be the Avoid-Shift-Improve approach. A better understanding of the mitigation potential in the transport sector will speed up the formulation of more comprehensive investment strategies. Externalities, such as air pollution and carbon emissions, must be addressed through comprehensive pricing policies. And financing from different sources – i.e. nonprofits, multi-lateral development agencies, governments, and the private sector – need to complement each other, rather than work towards different goals. As a large and fast-growing source of carbon emissions, the transport sector should have access to financing under international climate change agreements, in order to spur mitigation activities.

#5: There should be more financial support directed towards enabling and preparatory activities, rather than simply investing in transport systems and infrastructure alone. Sector-wide programs can significantly complement individual projects, and they should include a bundle of measures, instead of isolated interventions, to make transport projects more sustainable.

#6: Adaptation needs to be mainstreamed in the transportation sector. Knowledge, tools and methodologies to address climate change adaptation must be developed, tested, scaled up and mainstreamed quickly into the transportation sector. There is also a need to identify synergies and trade-offs between adaptation and mitigation activities, which should work in conjunction with each other as part of an overall transportation strategy.

To view more details about the event, including the full agenda, Powerpoint presentations, speaker bios and photos, go to

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