Inland transport plays a crucial role in the global economy, connecting people, goods and services to markets and opportunities. However, the rapid growth in this sector has had a significant impact on the environment. The increasing demand for faster and more efficient modes of transport has led to a substantial increase in the amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, exacerbating the effects of climate change.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the transport sector accounts for almost a quarter of global energy-related CO2 emission (23%) and inland transport for more than 71% of all transport-related CO2 emissions. The emissions are primarily due to the combustion of gasoline, diesel and other fossil fuels.
Climate change is one of the most pressing and complex global challenges of our time and as such tackling it requires a multi-pronged and multisectoral approach. In this context, UNECE’s Inland Transport Committee has an important role to play in supporting climate action and reducing the impact of inland transport on the environment across the UNECE region and beyond.
The role of UNECE’s Inland Transport Committee
Custodian of 59 legal instruments, UNECE’s Inland Transport Committee (ITC) is the United Nations regulatory platform for road, rail, inland waterway and intermodal transport.
Recognizing that reducing emissions is an essential part of the global effort to combat climate change, ITC is working to support climate action through several initiatives:
Improving engine efficiency and reducing emissions, and accelerating the deployment of safe electric and hydrogen vehicles;
Encouraging the shift from road to more environmentally sound modes of transport (rail, inland water and intermodal transport);
Promoting the transition to sustainable fuels and technologies;
Supporting the development of sustainable transport infrastructure;
Raising awareness and promoting best practices.
ITC is actively promoting the transition to sustainable fuels and technologies in the sector, such as electric and hydrogen vehicles, alternative fuels, and smart logistics systems, to reduce emissions, increase energy efficiency, promote the use of clean energy sources, and lower the overall cost of transport.
This includes the development of a well-designed transportation infrastructure, namely dedicated bike lanes and pedestrian-friendly streets, which can encourage the use of non-motorized modes of transportation, such as cycling and walking.
ITC is supporting the shift from road to more environmental modes of inland transport into the wider transport system by promoting the use of intermodal transport systems, such as using a combination of road, rail and water to transport goods and passengers over long distances. This can help to reduce GHG emissions by reducing the need for long-haul road transport.
In addition, ITC is working to support the development of sustainable transport infrastructure in the region, such as building new roads and bridges, upgrading existing ones, and improving transport systems. For example, the use of electronic devices to monitor and manage transport systems (telematics) can be used to monitor fuel consumption and vehicle performance, allowing transport companies to optimize their operations and reduce GHG emissions. Likewise, the use of intelligent transport systems (ITS) can improve the efficiency of transport systems.
Finally, the committee also plays an important role in raising awareness and promoting best practices, including best practices for reducing emissions. This will help ensure that stakeholders in the sector are aware of the impact of their activities on the environment and will encourages them to take action to reduce emissions.
Focus on climate action
A shift towards more sustainable modes of transportation will be essential to combatting the effects of climate change and reducing GHG emissions from the transport sector. This is why the annual session of ITC from 21 to 24 February 2023 is focused on climate action. It will provide transport leaders from UN member States and key transport stakeholders from around the world with an opportunity to deliberate on how to turn the inland transport sector into a catalyst for climate solutions.
Discussions at the annual session will focus on establishing critical partnerships to leave no one behind in the climate battle and bridging regulators and innovators to bring to scale critical technologies supporting climate change mitigation actions. They will also focus on challenges and opportunities in the nexus of international financial and regulatory support for climate action.
In that respect, let me mention our latest partnership: The establishment of the Transport Data Commons Initiative, a global open database on transport sector’s CO2 emissions. UNECE will host this database under the umbrella of the For Future Inland Transport System (ForFITS), a model meant to foster sustainable transport policies, with particular focus on assisting users to make informed decisions about measures to reduce GHG emissions.
To achieve its climate-oriented goals, ITC needs the support and cooperation of governments, transport operators, industry, international organizations and the wider public. It is only by working together, that the sector can reduce emissions, promote sustainable development, help mitigate the impacts of climate change and create a more sustainable future for all.