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Climate Change and Sustainable Transport

Climate change is at the top of UN priorities and has become a challenge for many organizations and fora dealing with climate change mitigation and adaptation.  There is also common understanding for the need to increase the capacity of countries in dealing with this challenge.


For UNECE the focus is on linking and mainstreaming our work to other international agendas, and concentrate on key areas which can produce results, such as:

  1. The Millennium Development Goals (MDG), in particular MDG 7 to ensure environmental sustainability
  2. The Kyoto Protocol
  3. UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/63/32, titled "Protection of global climate for present and future generations" (PDF)
  4. UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is not a pollutant but a greenhouse gas which contributes mainly to global warming effects and which is associated climate change.  Transport is one of the sectors targeted where effective public interventions are being called for to reduce CO2 emissions and where adaptation measures are needed to reduce the vulnerability to climatic changes.  Currently, the CO2 emissions in the transport sector are about 30% in the case of developed countries and about 23% in the case of the total man-made CO2 emissions worldwide.  There is widespread agreement to reduce CO2 emissions from transport by a minimum of 50% at the latest by 2050.
At a number of international conferences, transport ministers have addressed the need for CO2 abatement and improved fuel efficiency in the transport sector, mainly through:
  1. Innovative vehicle technologies, advanced engine management systems and efficient vehicle powertrains;
  2. The use of sustainable biofuels, not only of the first generation (vegetable oil, biodiesel, bio-alcohols and biogas from sugar plants, crops or animal fats etc.), but also of the second (biofuels from biomass, non-food crops including wood) and third generations (biodegradable fuels from algae);
  3. An improved transport infrastructure together with Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) to avoid traffic congestion and to foster the use of intermodal transport (road, rail and waterways);
    See related UNECE work
  4. Consumer information (campaigns for eco-driving*, use of public transport and modal transport etc.);
    See related UNECE work and joined UNECE/WHO work on THE PEP
  5. Legal instruments (such as tax incentives for low carbon products and processes, taxation of CO2 intensive products and processes, etc.).
    See related UNECE work

 * An example of golden rules for eco-driving as well as additional information on this subject can be found at the Ecodrive website


WP.5 Group of Experts on Climate Change and Adaptation for International Transport Networks


The joint United Nations Economic Commission for Europe – United Nations Conference on Trade and Development Workshop on “Climate Change Impacts on International Transport Networks” held in September 2010 raised awareness about the important challenges that climate change impacts and adaptation requirements present for international transport networks. While transport is responsible for greenhouse gas emissions it is, at the same time, heavily affected by the impacts of climate change. This workshop demonstrated the urgent need to prepare appropriate policy actions, as well as the need to exchange information about best practices and concluded that there is considerable merit in establishing a new expert group to study the matter.

The Inland Transport Committee in March 2011, and the UNECE Executive Committee in May 2011, agreed to establish a Group of Experts on climate change impacts and adaptation for international transport networks for a duration of two years (2013) and to adopt its terms of reference. The Group of Experts is expected to prepare and submit a final report that will include policy-oriented recommendations that aim to improve the long-term sustainability of international transport and set best examples of national policies, address the issues of transport networks vulnerability amongst member Governments, including developing and landlocked countries, as well as small island States.


UNDA Project - Tool for CO2


UNDA Project on the development and implementation of a monitoring and assessment tool for CO2 emissions in inland transport to facilitate climate change mitigation


The UNECE Transport Division initiated a new project to study the impact of inland transport on climate change and called the UN Development Account (UNDA) for funds to build up this project together with all UN Regional Commissions, as climate change is a global problem and needs a global solution. The funds for this 3 years project have been released and the work activities are in progress. The implementation of this project started in January 2011. Further information on this project including background documents are available here.


The main objective of the project is to enhance international cooperation and planning towards sustainable transport policies through the development and use of a standard monitoring and assessment tool for CO2 emissions in inland transport including a transport policy converter. This first activity within this project is to develop an information and analysis tool based on a uniform methodology for the data collection, the evaluation of the emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the inland transport sector (road, rail and waterways except national and international aviation and maritime transport), taking into account climate-relevant indicators and new transportation trends. All regions will address the full scale of the project.


The methodology for evaluating CO2 emissions would serve as a tool that could be used by all UN Member States to analyze a wide range of questions linked to CO2 emissions and to optimize the use of energy sources in the transport sector, not only the permanent increase of the road vehicle fleets (including the different types of propulsion systems), the future extensions of the transport infrastructure (including Intelligent Transport Systems) and the availability of sustainable energy sources, but also the transport on railways and inland waterways, including intermodal transport. In addition, a transport policy converter will be included to take into consideration the implementation of regional, national or local transport policy measures. Thus, it would also be a powerful and transparent analysis tool to develop future transport strategies and to support policy decisions by the Member States (taking into account legal and economic aspects such as the introduction of tax incentives for environmentally friendly vehicles or for the use intermodal transport and logistics as well as social behaviours e.g. consumer behaviour after information campaigns) in order to receive feedback on the impact of their different policy scenarios on the economy.


In a further step, the above mentioned assessment tool for inland transport CO2 emissions will be complemented with a catalogue of recommendations on a number of possible measures on how users can reduce their CO2 emissions within road, rail and inland waterways transport. Finally, a number of capacity building workshops and training sessions will be organized in all UN Regional Commissions aimed at raising the awareness of policy makers on the need of actions for climate change mitigation and adaptation, providing a rational basis for sustainable transport policies and effective measures as well as enhancing the skills for the use of the assessment tool for inland transport CO2 emissions.


The tool will be structured to easily permit an enlargement to other greenhouse gases (GHG), gaseous pollutants or other transport modes, subject to further funding.  It is intended to make the tool publicly accessible and free of charge via the UNECE website. UNECE seeks the cooperation of its member states and key stakeholders to participate in this important, complex and global project. For more information on this project please contact us ([email protected]).


Past events

The World Forum WP.29 agreed to organize a substantive round table on this subject, back-to-back with one of the forthcoming sessions of the World Forum.  In February 2009, the Inland Transport Committee (ITC) endorsed the activities of WP.29 on market fuel quality recommendations and the organization of such a Round Table.  The World Forum WP.29 decided to hold the "Round Table on Climate Change and Transport" in Geneva on June 2010. In this respect, WP.29 held a brainstorming session on 12 November 2009 to consider possible topics, speakers, goals and follow-up actions to the Round Table. The final programme of the Round Table, the speaker's presentations, the summary report and the most releveant background documents are available here.

For more background information, please consult the WP.29 reports ECE/TRANS/WP.29/1068, para. 2; ECE/TRANS/WP.29/1070, para. 77; ECE/TRANS/WP.29/1072, paras. 3 and 20; ECE/TRANS/WP.29/1079, paras. 78-80, ECE/TRANS/WP.29/1083, para. 74, ECE/TRANS/WP.29/1085, paras. 63-64, ECE/TRANS/WP.29/1087, para. 87. All these documents are available here.


Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation for International Transport Networks : interactive report
Download PDF (English, also available in French and Russian)

This report has been prepared to assist the work of the UNECE Group of Experts on Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation for International Transport Networks, in accordance with its agreed work programme and its main objectives (ECE/TRANS/WP.5/GE.3/2011/1).

The report consists of 5 substantive chapters. Chapter 1 provides a short review of the scientific background of climate change and its effects on both a global scale and in the ECE region. Chapter 2 presents some of the potential impacts of the different manifestations of climate change on transport networks. This section pays particular emphasis identifying issues pertinent to transport infrastructure in the ECE region and taking into account the different modes of transportation. Chapter 3 presents a brief analysis of the results of the questionnaire circulated to UNECE member countries and international organizations in 2012. Chapter 4 provides a summary of  available adaptation responses. Chapter 5 summarizes the conclusions and recommendations of the Group of Experts.

Diesel Engines Exhaust: Myths and Realities
Download PDF (English)

The objective of this Discussion paper is:

to offer a balanced view on the on‐going debate about the harmful effects of diesel engine exhaust emissions on human health and the environment; to take stock of recent studies on the harmful effects of diesel exhausts to public health; to provide information about diesel emissions by different economic sectors including inland transport; to overview the recent policy developments on the reduction of pollutant emissions to address health and environmental concerns; and to overview any technological developments in diesel engines that reduce or even eliminate the harmful effects to public health.

Transport for Sustainable Development in the ECE region

Transport affects social, economic and environmental sustainability. Transport links markets and individuals, making regions more competitive and promoting individuals’ social and economic development.

The goals of this publication are: strengthen the broad horizon of policy setting for sustainable development, present the transport sector as one that brings also positive externalities and not only negative ones, show‐case best and good practices in the UNECE countries and also this way facilitate information sharing and the wider use of available knowledge and experience, outline  challenges specific to the UNECE countries, contribute to policy debate on solutions and needed measures, as well as facilitate their faster dissemination and application for sustainable transport development.



Useful links - internal

Word Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations (WP.29)

Useful links- external

Environmentally Friendly Vehicles: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th
UNFCCC - Kyoto Protocol