The battle against climate change will be won or lost in Asia and the Pacific.Mr. Masatsugu Asakawa, Asian Development Bank (ADB) President and Chairperson of ADB’s Board of Directors
At the High-Level 14th Regional Environmentally Sustainable Transport (EST) Forum in Asia Mr. Bambang Susantono, Vice-President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development of the ADB, quotes Mr. Asakawa to emphasize the pivotal role of Asia in creating new policy initiatives for greener, more inclusive, and more resilient development.
Asia is predicted to be home to about half of the global population, account for one-third of global transport CO2 emissions and suffer almost 60% of global road accidents and fatalities by 2030. These trends will lead to major challenges for Asian countries on their path towards sustainability in the coming decades.
The most prominent among these challenges are air pollution and traffic congestion in cities. Tackling them will require an urgent transformation in the transport sector – which is also essential in the global battle against climate change.
Recognising the importance of immediate greater action on sustainability of transport systems in Asia, this year’s EST Forum was held under the theme “Next Generation Transport Systems for Achieving SDGs and Carbon Neutrality – for a Safer, Affordable, Accessible and Resilient Asia”. It took place from 18 to 20 October 2021 in Tokoname City, Aichi Prefecture, Japan.
During this event, 21 out of 25 member countries of the regional EST Forum adopted the Aichi 2030 Declaration on Environmentally Sustainable Transport – Making Transport in Asia Sustainable (2021-2030). The Aichi 2030 Declaration is a non-legal and non-binding agreement and is still open to all countries in Asia and the Pacific to voluntarily join.
We affirm our interest in, and commitment to, realizing a decade (2021-2030) of progress in sustainable actions and measures for achieving universally accessible, safe, affordable, efficient, clean, low-carbon, resilient, multi-modal passenger and freight transport in Asia.Aichi 2030 Declaration, page 1
Based on the Bali Declaration on Vision Three Zeros ‐ Zero Congestion, Zero Pollution, and Zero Accidents towards Next Generation Transport Systems in Asia (2013), the Aichi 2030 Declaration aims to ensure a transformation towards a completely sustainable transport in Asia. It lays out a common vision and six goals for continued and scaled-up action on sustainable transport.
These goals are in line with and reinforce the Paris Agreement on climate change and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs), as well as other global agreements of direct relevance to the transport sector in Asia. Namely, the declaration includes clear language on ensuring that emission reductions by 2030 will be in line with decarbonisation of the transport sector “by 2050 or shortly thereafter” (Goal 1a). The only quantified target, however, is on road safety, calling to halve the number of deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents in Asia by 2030 compared to 2020, with specific attention to vulnerable road users (Goal 2).
To strengthen the knowledge base on transport in Asia and the Pacific region, ADB initiated the Asian Transport Outlook (ATO), which documents the transport sector in 51 economies in the region and covers all 25 EST member countries. Through the collection and organisation of data ATO provides a unique regional database that can help Asian governments in transport policy development and delivery. The ATO has potential to become an opportunity to place Asia in the forefront of new collaboration approaches to improve reporting on progress towards the SDGs and the Paris Agreement if governments actively contribute to the database in the future. Until now, data was collected by a team of consultants to populate the comprehensive database as best as possible. If, in the future, EST Member countries provide official transport data on a regular basis themselves, as part of the annual reporting on the implementation of the Aichi 2030 Declaration, the ATO could serve as an officially backed yardstick for the transformation of transport towards sustainability in Asia.
To support the implementation of the Aichi 2030 Declaration, the Declaration foresees the establishment of Communities of Interest (CoI). The aim of the communities is to assist, among other things, in sharing knowledge and good practice examples. They could further contribute to the development and implementation of capacity building programmes. The Aichi Decleration invites multilateral and bilateral development partners to align their transport sector assistance in Asia with the objectives of the Aichi 2030 Declaration and support regional exchange and coordination in related Communities of Interest.
If the EST member countries take the Aichi 2030 Declaration seriously, they will translate the six goals into their national policies, strategies and actions plans. During the EST Forum Mr. Le Anh Tuan, Viet Nam’s Vice Minister of the Ministry of Transport (MOT) already shared Viet Nam’s vision towards a carbon-neutral transport system. This was backed up by Viet Nam’s Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, who committed to achieving the target of net zero emissions by 2050. Currently Vietnam is developing the action plans to translate it’s green growth strategy into implementation.
In fact, several Asian countries have strengthened their climate commitments in the run-up or at the COP26 in Glasgow. For example, India’s Prime Minister pledged to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2070, China reconfirmed its decarbonisation target by 2060 in an updated NDC and Thailand strengthened its targets, now aiming to peak greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 and move towards carbon neutrality by 2065.
Next, countries will have to deliver on their promises. If countries made a socially just transition towards zero carbon and environmentally sustainable transport their guiding principle for policy formulation and planning, the new Aichi Declaration could provide a framework for supporting and monitoring transformational change in the transport sector in Asia.
With annual reporting on progress at regional level and strong collaboration between governments, donor, international organisations, and private sector the new Declaration could act as a catalyst for change.
If the ATO were successfully supported and used by Asian governments, it would largely improve the integrated reporting on the progress towards the SDGs and the Paris Agreement on transport. It would also serve as a lighthouse initiative, potentially to be copied in other geographical regions.