Statement by UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner at the First Ministerial Forum on Sustainable Transport in Africa Thu, Oct 30, 2014

His Excellency Uhuru Kenyatta, President of the Republic of Kenya,

His Excellency, Ban Ki Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations

Honorable Engineer Michael Kamau, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure,

Honorable Professor Judy Wakhungu, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources,

Dr. Joan Clos, Executive Director of UN-Habitat, and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations,

Mr. Jose Luis Irigoyen, Director of Transport and Information and Communication Technology of the World Bank,

Madame Sahle-Work Zewde, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Nairobi,

Excellencies,

Distinguished guests,

Colleagues,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of UN-Habitat, the World Bank and the United Nations Environment Programme, it is an honour to address this distinguished gathering at the opening of the first Africa Sustainable Transport Forum.

The gathering of ministers and senior officials from over 40 countries from across Africa to chart a new and pioneering path for sustainable transport is testament to the determination of Africa's leadership to carve a healthier, more resilient and more sustainable future for years to come.

A sustainable path for development is a prosperous one. In fact, as recent examples show, sustainability can be a powerful engine for economic and social development minus the hefty long-term damage to human health and the environment.

In a Green Economy, growth in income and employment is driven by public and private investment that reduces carbon emissions and pollution, enhances energy and resource efficiency, and prevents the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services.

These investments need to be catalyzed and supported by targeted public expenditure, policy reforms and regulation changes across all sectors, including the transport sector.

It is encouraging to note that overall developing country investment in a low carbon future is on the rise. Clean energy investments reached US $244 billion in 2012, while outlays in developing countries reached US $112 million, according to estimates by REN 21 (Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century).

Evidence shows that when investments are targeted towards greening key economic sectors, they can produce multiple benefits for society, for the economy, and for the environment.

With spending on transport infrastructure growing at an unprecedented rate across Africa, policymakers have a window of opportunity to mitigate climate change threats and ensure the health and well-being of millions of Africans by introducing clean and efficient transportation.

The African Sustainable Transport Forum (ASTF) presents a very timely opportunity for African nations to map out an efficient, sustainable and cost-effective future for its transport sector, one that can support its continued economic growth without compromising the health and well-being of its people and environment.

The ASTF Framework will provide the platform for Africa's decision-makers to share best practices, coordinate sustainable transport efforts and provide focus to development planning to transition its transport sector into one that is more resource-efficient, environmentally sound and cost-effective for its ambitious and increasingly mobile population.

Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen,

As we are all aware over the past decade and a half, the African continent has for the most part showed steady year-over-year growth. This is a welcome trend which is lifting millions of Africans out of poverty every year and creating new economic markets, innovations and opportunities for a booming economy.

The transport sector is now the fastest growing source of energy related climate emissions in the world, and is expected to make up one-third of energy related climate emissions by 2050.

These emissions are key contributors to a global air pollution crisis that is killing 7 million people a year - four times the impact of HIV Aids and malaria together, according to the World Health Organisation.

At the same time, experts recognize that reducing climate emissions from transport may actually be easier than from most other sectors.

This forum is our chance to find ways of not just putting an end to many of these preventable deaths, but to also invent the transport sectors of tomorrow, today, here in Africa.

Road safety is a serious concern here in Africa where we have the highest rates of road fatalities in the world, and according to the World Bank, road deaths are set to increase in Sub-Saharan Africa by 80 per cent by 2020 if road conditions and traffic safety are not improved.

Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen,

Africa has the potential to move perhaps faster towards a much more sustainable transport sector. Fleets are still relatively small - but growing more rapidly than anywhere else. Cities are still modest in size - but urbanization rates are also among the highest in the world.

With spending on transport infrastructure growing at an unprecedented rate across Africa, policymakers have a brief but crucial window to mitigate the impacts of climate change and ensure the health and well-being of millions of Africans by introducing clean and efficient transportation.

The ASTF Framework will provide the platform for Africa's decision-makers to share best practices, coordinate sustainable transport efforts and provide focus to development planning that will hopefully "leapfrog" its transport sector into one that is more resource-efficient, environmentally sound and cost-effective for its ambitious and increasingly mobile population.

But again, time is of the essence. For example, Nairobi's car fleet is doubling every 6 years. If those of you who live here and those of you who commuted here from the airport in the last few days think that Nairobi has its share of congestion and pollution now, imagine what it will be like just a few short years from now.

The good news is that all over Africa, policymakers, and citizens are implementing initiatives to make transport more sustainable, which is why I am very pleased that this Forum is strongly focused on African solutions for African transport challenges - sharing the lessons and best practices and developing a joint road map for sustainable transport in Africa.

Only a few years ago the fuel quality of East African countries was among the worst in the world. But as the East African Community has already started the transition to a greener transport system, having recently adopted a ground-breaking decision to move to cleaner, low-sulfur diesel fuels, which will help the region to reduce its emissions.

The introduction of quality public transport across Africa through public-private investment offers opportunities for countries to overcome challenges caused by deteriorating air quality, rising emissions, health hazards and congested cities.

Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen,

Last June, at the historic first United Nations Environment Assembly, held here in Nairobi, the international community adopted a resolution calling on Governments and UNEP to address deteriorating air quality. Our meeting today is part of the UNEP response to that resolution - strengthening UNEP's air quality work.

In 2016, the United Nations will organize the Habitat III conference on housing and sustainable urban development. Coming after two decades, this landmark conference will provide an opportunity for the world to review and formulate a new urban agenda in which sustainable transport and mobility is a pillar. The work of this Forum today will be crucial in contributing to the formulation of this new urban agenda.

In 2012, the World Bank with the other multilateral development banks identified transport as a key issue coming out of the Rio+20 conference. The development banks came together and committed themselves to make available US$175 billion for sustainable transport. Our initiative to develop an African Action Framework for sustainable transportation will help identify priorities and channel and scale up investment into sustainable transport in Africa.

This Forum comes at the right time. Governments are completing the drafting of a new global development framework - the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs. Sustainable transport can be a major contributor to these SDGs, which now include targets on air quality, climate mitigation, road safety, and sustainable urbanization, among others.

Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen,

In conclusion, I would like to extend on behalf of everyone here our warmest gratitude to Your Excellency Mr. President and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for your presence and your commitment to support the work of this inaugural Forum.

I also wish to thank the governments represented here today and our partners, including the Africa Transport Policy Program, for working with us to set in motion concrete action to tackle transport challenges across the continent and around the world and acheive cleaner air, healthier environment, safer roads and better cities for generations to come.

And finally, our special thanks to the government of Kenya who are the distinguished hosts of today's event and have worked tirelessly with UN-Habitat the World Bank and UNEP to make today possible.

I wish you all, excellencies and colleagues, a successful meeting and a robust roadmap for sustainable transport in Africa.

Thank you.

 
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