Sustainable transport and air pollution

Urban mobility is rapidly becoming one of the greatest challenges facing developed and developing countries alike. Transport is estimated to be responsible for nearly a quarter of global energy-related CO2. There are also rising concerns about its impact on the quality of urban life, including social inequities, and about the effects of its pollution on health and buildings.

Overall demand for transport activity (for both passenger and freight) is growing rapidly, and it is predicted to roughly double between 2005 and 2050. The global vehicle fleet is set to multiply three or four-fold in the next few decades, with most of this growth set to occur in developing countries. In 2050, two-thirds of the global vehicle fleet is expected to be in non-OECD countries. At the same time technological improvements such as fuel-efficient vehicles and alternative power sources have not developed rapidly enough to cope with the consequence of this growth.

There is a growing consensus on the need for more sustainable patterns of transport activities. This requires a fundamental shift in investment patterns, based on the principles of avoiding or reducing trips through integrated land-use and transport planning. Moreover it is necessary to shift to more environmentally friendly modes of transport and improving vehicles and fuels, which is seen as a priority to reduce urban air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. In order to reduce volumes of traffic and emissions, regulations and standards, environmental friendly technologies and concepts for public transport and 'green cities' have to be implemented. UNEP supports governments and partners in implementing policies, technologies and investments that lead to low-carbon, green transport on the ground.

Share the Road is the UNEP-led initiative that advocates a systematic inclusion on non-motorized transport (NMT) infrastructure in urban road investments as a matter of policy. It combines the agendas for mitigating climate change, improving road safety and increasing accessibility to essential services by investing in NMT infrastructure.

The Global Initiative on Promoting Bus Rapid Transit and Promoting Sustainable Transport in Latin America aims to facilitate the shift from private motorization to public and non-motorized transport. Another initiative is The Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles, which has been coordinating programmes that aim at reducing vehicular emissions in developing countries to improve urban air quality.

UNEP supports also the "Make Roads Safe - Campaign for Global Road Safety" which addresses politicians, international institutions, vehicle manufacturers and road planners. It aims to reduce road deaths and injuries with a focus on developing countries, poor communities and children.