At the ministerial meeting of International Transport Forum member countries, Rachel Kyte, the CEO of Sustainable Energy for All, addressed the roundtable gathering of transport ministers about the need for countries to work towards decarbonizing transport corridors through regulations and be an impetus for a transition towards sustainable forms of mobility.
“We need to collectively and individually step up to this particular moment in time. The challenge is to move forward sustainably. The energy systems upon which transport systems depend on and vice versa, will be completely different in the future than anything that you or I grew up with,” said Kyte. “We will have decentralized, digitalized and decarbonized energy systems – what we will see is in effect, the democratization of energy, which is both profoundly exciting, and at the same time, hugely disruptive.”
Kyte stressed the opportunities that the ministers have to build systems that serve everyone and lead toward a more sustainable future for the planet. Three years since the Paris Climate Accord, it is critical to track and meditate on individual energy goals as countries have largely been lagging in their CO2 emissions and climate targets on their runup to halving their carbon footprints by 2030 and complete decarbonization by 2050.
Though transport-related emissions had been left untouched in such agreements for far too long, Kyte insisted that this can no longer be an excuse as it is the responsibility of the current generation to leave behind a healthier planet for the next generation. She cited examples of strikes and road rallies that children across the world are conducting, calling for the people responsible for moving from “a sense of urgency to a sense of emergency.”
“We see a business community asking for predictability and long-range certainty that will come from the long-range plans that you and your colleagues around the cabinet tables must put in place,” said Kyte. “The challenge for you is to find a way to decarbonize our energy systems in the context of transport, but to do it in a way that is inclusive. This means that people on low incomes – speaking of the cities that have been built today and tomorrow – have the opportunity to contribute to the economy, can afford transportation, can afford energy and can do it without clogging up the air.”
This is going to be difficult, as it is estimated that there will be a 50 percent growth in passenger traffic between the time when the Paris Agreement was signed until when the goals are to be achieved. Aside from tackling the current emissions issue, countries would have to plan ahead for the rise in vehicular traffic, which is extremely relevant for emerging economies in Asia and Africa.
Air traffic increase is another concern. Kyte contended that it is critical for ministers to be focused on the agenda and look to take ownership of the warranted change. “This will require your concerted effort and leadership, huge efforts to procure clean trucks, buses, light-duty and heavy-duty vehicles, and create a market for them in the developing world,” she said.
To realize the utopian dream of an emission-free world, it is important to look at levying taxes on pollution and decreasing taxes on people, which can spur economic growth in a direction that makes growth more sustainable and inclusive for everyone.
“My message to you is in the disintegration of transport and energy – it has to be decarbonized and it has to be inclusive. Those are not mutually exclusive goals. There is so much innovation in the private sector and there’s so many of you already doing very advanced things. The question is how can we speed this up and how can you be part of this story,” said Kyte.