Setting the new urban agenda for mobility

The “revised” draft of the New Urban Agenda is clearer and more concise, and includes a number of important references to transport and mobility

Habitat III will be one of the first United Nations global summits after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Climate Change Agreement.
On May 16th, the Habitat III Secretariat released the Zero Draft text of the New Urban Agenda (NUA), the Outcome Document of the Habitat III Conference. The Zero draft was further revised and released on 18th June 2016. Given below is an overall assessment of the NUA from a transport perspective.

The Zero Draft of the New Urban Agenda (NUA) for the Habitat III process has highlighted the critical role of transport in furthering sustainable urban development. The NUA urges a “transformation in mobility policy”. The Zero Draft of NUA struck a reasonable balance between specific recommendations on mobility and providing enabling recommendations on national-urban relations; urban planning; financing; policy frameworks, and capacity building that will be the key to implementing the transport related recommendations on a city level. There is a prominent mention of public transport, walking and cycling, which is a crucial element of the integrated land use and transport planning.


Revised zero draft of New Urban Agenda

The revised Zero Draft emphasizes access to economic opportunities and social services, rather than simply access to sustainable transport systems, a key distinction between the New Urban Agenda and the SDGs. The text used on transport in paragraphs 94-99 of the revised Zero Draft is quite clear and concise.

  • Take measures to improve road safety and integrate it into mobility and transport infrastructure planning and design.
  • Promote the implementation of the United Nations vehicle safety regulations,
    Provide access for all to safe, affordable, sustainable urban mobility and transport systems, enabling meaningful participation in social and economic activities in cities and human settlements.
  • Develop mechanisms and common frameworks at the national, sub-national and local levels to appraise the wider benefits of urban transport schemes.
  • Establishing urban transport infrastructure funds at the national level, based on a diversity of funding sources, ranging from public grants to contributions from other public entities and the private sector.
  • Support better coordination and mutual understanding between transport and urban planning departments at the local level.
  • Provide support to local authorities to develop the necessary knowledge and capacity to implement integrated transport plans, including the provision of guidelines and the legal capacity to enforce plans upon adoption.
  • Support local authorities to develop financing instruments, enabling them to improve their transport infrastructure by public transport systems.

At the same time, it is felt that the revised Zero Draft leaves room for improvement in several areas. While the NUA provides much-needed attention on sustainable passenger transport, freight transport and logistics is relatively neglected and needs more emphasis.

The “revised” draft of the New Urban Agenda correctly highlights a number of generic enabling factors — planning, capacity-building, finance, etc. — that are necessary for sustainable urban development. There is no alternative to a broad transformation of urban mobility policy. No new technology or energy carrier alone can deliver the widespread benefits of truly sustainable transport.

UN member states have already unanimously recognized the importance of transport issues on multiple occasions. In the 2012 “The Future We Want”, the outcome document from the U. N.’s major Rio+20 summit, governments recognized “the importance of the efficient movement of people and goods, and access to environmentally sound, safe and affordable transportation as a means to improve social equity, health, resilience of cities.” They further noted “the importance of mixed-use planning and of encouraging non-motorized mobility, including by promoting pedestrian and cycling infrastructures.”
The end result of the Rio+20 talks is the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the 15-year global framework that went into effect in January. One of the targets for these goals pledges governments to “provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport, with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons” by 2030. Another pledges them, by 2020, to “halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents”.

The New Urban Agenda is a set of strategies that is integrated, strategic, sustainable, and transformative and right based

Dr. Joan Clos, Secretary General, Habitat-III

Decarbonizing Urban Transport for Making Cities More Resilient:

The Paris Agreement on climate change, through its ambitious target of moving toward a 1.5 degree Celsius maximum global temperature increase, makes clear that transport will need to largely decarbonize by 2050. It is generally accepted that urban transport will need to be in the lead on this, and several countries and cities have already announced major policy initiatives in this respect. The New Urban Agenda should now strengthen the links between climate action and urban mobility to ensure broad action and, based on the Paris Agreement, set urban transport firmly on a decarbonization pathway.

Planning to minimize transport demand:

Besides supply-side interventions, including public transport, walking and cycling infrastructure, the New Urban Agenda should also advocate and focus on demand management solutions — in particular, sustainable urban mobility plans through dramatically improved planning to minimize the need to travel.

Focus on the needs of vulnerable groups:

New Urban Agenda should also focus on the needs of vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly, the poor and people with disabilities. Making transport safer, cheaper, more accessible and cleaner disproportionately benefits vulnerable groups.
Freight Transport: It is important to promote the sustainable growth of freight transport, but this will require differentiated response strategies for the movements of goods versus people.New Urban Agenda therefore should also emphasise the key role that freight, the moving of goods, plays in enabling economic development.

Technology enabling change:

New Urban Agenda recognizes the role of technology as an enabler of shared mobility services, but these can also be used to ensure user fees and charges reflect the marginal social costs and provide new sources of financing to further encourage a shift toward more sustainable modes of transportation.

There, however, is a need for strong action at all levels, including from member states. Without a dramatic change in direction, cities will become increasingly congested, road safety will become a major issue as road collisions will kill and maim millions more, and billions will be forced to breathe polluted air. The promise of cities as attractive and successful places to live in the 21st century will not materialize without the U. N. member states expressing their preparedness to provide the necessary leadership and focus in the New Urban Agenda to deliver on their past commitments and transform urban mobility.

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