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Road transport: a key solution to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
Global | Geneva

Road transport: a key solution to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

27 Feb 2020

On the sidelines of the UN Inland Transport Committee (ITC) meetings this week in Geneva, IRU spoke at a high-level roundtable organised by The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe  (UNECE) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) on transport and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

The movement of people and goods is fundamental to economic and social prosperity everywhere. And when it comes to movement, roads are the most essential and basic form of transport there is, as they knit all other transport modes together. They are the first and the last mile of every movement, be it of people or goods. 

And while road transport oils the wheels of trade everywhere, it is particularly important along Eurasia’s ancient Silk Road routes, where the need for road transport solutions is essential in order to transform land-locked regions into land-linked ones. 

“If we don’t get road transport right, we won’t get any of the sustainable development goals right”

In the context of today’s ever-growing development challenges, how can road transport offer sustainable solutions that support development aims? 

IRU Secretary General Umberto de Pretto answered this question during yesterday’s roundtable, which focused on the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development along the trans-continental Eurasian Transport Corridors.

“If we don’t get road transport right, we won’t get any of the sustainable development goals right,” said Mr de Pretto. “The 2030 agenda is ambitious. We only have 10 years left to deliver on the goals. And while all modes of transport have their role to play, road is the fastest, cheapest, most practical and most flexible in terms of investment as well as results,” he added.

Here’s how road transport can help deliver on some of the SDGs in Eurasia: 

Goal 1: no poverty
Goal 2: zero hunger

Road transport has a key role in making sure that workers, equipment, fertiliser and seeds can get to farms, and that food gets efficiently and quickly from farms to people. This is particularly true in the poorest countries and in the most remote areas of the planet. Road transport is also the fastest and cheapest way to improve agricultural distribution. 

Goal 7: affordable and clean energy
Goal 13: climate action

IRU and the commercial road transport operators we represent were early leaders on sustainability. In 1996, road became the first transport mode to have a charter for sustainable development, led by IRU, and even included in IRU’s Constitution. 

A year later, IRU was the first transport-related industry body to attend the RIO+5 Earth Summit, where we explained our vision of sustainable development as the voice of millions of transport operators.

As a significant user of energy, road transport plays a key role in helping drive advances in new fuel sources – not just the energy itself, but also the practical considerations of using new fuels, such as charging infrastructure, geographic restrictions and incentives and tax and financial incentives. 

IRU’s decarbonisation efforts include long-term actions to effectively and properly decarbonise road transport – not just at the vehicle, but within the whole CO2 lifecycle, from the energy source to the energy use. 

But the strategy includes quick wins to reduce CO2 emissions in the form of boosting public transport, easing border crossings, encouraging high-capacity trucks with harmonised standards, and promoting better driver training & certification. 

Goal 11: sustainable cities and communities

More than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas. 
Good mobility and logistics networks are the difference between well-functioning cities and those that fail to help their residents live better and happier lives. Accessible public transport, especially for people who cannot drive themselves, is very important for social cohesion and building strong communities. 

Safe, efficient and green logistics systems that rely on road transport – especially for the first mile and last mile, help deliver sustainable economic prosperity in cities and their hinterlands. 

Goal 8: decent work and economic growth
Goal 9: industry, innovation and infrastructure

Trade is a fundamental part of delivering decent work and economic growth, and this is IRU’s most important focus globally. Connectivity between economies for trade in goods and services, and between the people who trade, is critical. As the only global transit system, TIR facilitates trade along the routes that stitch together the economies and communities of the SCO countries across the enormous Eurasian landmass

Goal 17: partnerships and collaboration

Building public-private partnerships is something IRU has strived for since its founding. 

Collaboration is crucial to realise the SDGs, and ensure that public and private players are involved to design and implement good practical solutions. 

Along with the SCO and UN, IRU has built a strong network of public and private partnerships with hundreds of organisations, ranging from the International Transport Forum to the World Bank. These collaborations help us share knowledge, experiences, expertise and technology, which in turn lead to moving the world forward.

With 10 years remaining to deliver the ambitious 2030 agenda, there is no time to waste. IRU and the road transport industry will continue their efforts to help achieve the sustainable development goals.