Less carbon, more automation: Lessons from Covid have become key Asia-Pacific programs at ESCAP

A freight train carrying iron ore | Ian Waldie | Bloomberg

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Ttransport ministers from across Asia and the Pacific meet this week to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific envision a potentially transformational agenda on how people and goods are displaced in the region and across the world.

VSconnectivity weaknesses in the Asia-Pacific region became even more evident during the pandemic – landlocked developing countries, least developed countries and Small IIsle Ddeveloping states have been particularly affected. Therefore, it is imperative that we accelerate meaningful changes in transport systems as countries seek to get their development agendas back on track.

New program, old goals

It is in this context that the officials gathered at ESCAP for the Fourth Ministerial Conference on Transport discuss the Regional Action Program (RAP) for 2022-2026. he will design a new roadmap for a transport system to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (ODD).

The RAP wsick address questions Phone that the increase in freight and passenger volumes this reflect in growing demand for freight transport and mobility. In fact, two thirds of the Global maritime trade is concentrated in the Asia-Pacific region, home to nine of the world’s busiest container ports. The region is currently responsible for more than 40% of global land transport flows of goods and by 2050, the continent’s demand for freight transport is expected to triple. Asia and pacific are expected to face greater trade, substantial new population growth, and rapid urbanisation-coupled to high motoristax rate in the years to come.


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Key priorities: more digital, less carbon

To cope with such changes and demands, the RAP wsick encourage further digitizationsation and innovation for transport. As the pandemic has unfolded, we have seen that the The accelerated adoption of digital technologies has helped governments and private companies to running systems amid border closures and other containment measures. Any furtherFollowing, the the deployment of intelligent transport systems to improve efficiency, resilience as well as social and environmental sustainability is undoubtedly a key priorityYes to better rebuild.

Other provisions of the RAP include accelerating transitions to low carbon transport systems. The transport sector is one of the main contributors to climate change, and Asia and the Pacific remain among the most CO2 emitting regions in the world. There is a strong need for rapid decarbonisregional transport networks and related operations, including urban and public transport. The switch to railways would also significantly boost the sustainability of international freight transport and end up at a more sustainable post-Covid-19 world. The abundance of renewable energies in some countries is an opportunity to switch to electric mobility in public transport. To support these efforts, last month the ESCAP unveiled plans for an Asia-Pacific initiative on electric mobility at the climate change conference in Glasgow.

In the context of sustainable development, we cannot ignore the fact that 60% of the world’s road traffic fatalities occur in the Asia-Pacific region. The General Assembly proclaimed 2021-2030 as the second decade of action for road safety, with the aim of halving road deaths and injuries. In response, the ESCAP is preparing an Asia-Pacific regional action plan.


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Countries worked together during the pandemic, can still

International freight transport remained largely operational throughout the pandemic, as countries took policy steps to preserve freight transport connectivity to support supply chains. The road to Asia, the Trans-Asian Railway, and the dry port networks established under the The ESCAP auspices form the backbone of the connectivity and logistics of land transport infrastructure in the region. They are also increasingly integrated into interregional transport corridors and port and maritime networks. In 2020 and 2021, these links brought countries together to capture and analyzese their responses to the pandemic and the impacts of these actions on regional connectivity. Going forward, they can be further harnessed to promote infrastructure and operational connectivity reforms in support of a seamlessly integrated network of intermodal transport connections that underpins the regional and global economy.

In this vein, the epidemic of Covid-19 also had a profound impact on urban transport, accessibility, and mobility. These challenges give new impetus at transport and urban planners to rethink forms of mobility as an affordable, accessible, reliable and safe service. In addition, gender gaps and inequalities in terms of access to transport and related opportunities persist, so inhibiting the sector’s ability to also address the social dimensions of sustainable development.

The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted progress in Asia and the Pacific in a lot of SDGs, and in some cases, this years of success reversed. The transport sector, which is essential to achieve the goals, suffered a heavy blow during the pandemic. But the countries demonstrated the ability to quickly move towards automation and innovation to maintain functionality and resilience, and foster access to social inclusion. It also shows the sector’s ability to take bold new steps towards low-carbon development. Rap can prove essential in addressing the region’s performance delays and building resilience to future crises by reducing deep-rooted social, economic and environmental challenges.

Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana is the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). Opinions are personal.

(Edited by Humra Laeeq)

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