Live from Transforming Transportation: How can smart cities work with the sustainable development agenda?
As Transforming Transportation 2015 kicks off, panelists discuss the essential role of transport in the future of sustainable urban development. Photo by ruimcc77/Flickr.

As Transforming Transportation 2015 kicks off, panelists discuss the essential role of transport in the future of sustainable urban development. Photo by ruimcc77/Flickr.

Transforming Transportation (#TTDC15) is the annual conference co-organized by EMBARQ, the sustainable urban transport arm of the World Resources Institute’s (WRIWRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, and the World Bank. This year’s conference focuses on Smart Cities for Shared Prosperity, and takes place on January 15 and 16, 2015 in Washington, DC. Join the conversation on social media with the hashtag #TTDC15, by following @EMBARQNetwork and @WBG_Transport on Twitter, and tune in to www.transformingtransportation.org for video streaming of select sessions. 

2015 is a crucial year for the global sustainable development agenda, and cities will play an integral role. A new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the United Nations is expected in September 2015, and a draft of the SDGs earlier this year put new emphasis on sustainable cities. At the first panel of this year’s Transformation Transportation conference, leaders from India, Mexico, the Netherlands, and the OECD discussed how urban transport can be integral to sustainable development.

The change may need to be sweeping, according to Felipe Calderón, former president of Mexico and current chair of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate.

“The current sprawling urban model is promoting social exclusion,” Calderón said in the conference keynote address at the World Bank on January 15. “We need to change the way we organize cities, because the current model … is impossible to continue.”

Felipe Calderon on urban sprawl and social exclusion

Photo by Aaron Minnick/WRI.

Shankar Aggrawal, secretary of the India Ministry of Urban Development, noted that with nearly 31% of Indians living in cities, “The transportation sector needs to undergo a huge change. We have to go in for public transport … We need to create cities that are designed for citizens, not cars.”

In Mexico City, a new mobility law aims to eliminate thousands of the pollution-emitting, poorly maintained micro-buses now used for public transport. The city also built pedestrian-friendly thoroughfares and zero-emissions corridors, restricted car use, and is expanding metro lines, the Metrobús bus rapid transit (BRT) system, and bike-sharing.

“I’m convinced that mobility can improve quality of life in Mexico City,” said Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera through a translator.

Cities and transport also play a key role in the climate change agenda. Transport is responsible for 22% of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, and these emissions are rising faster than those for any other sector. Cities contribute about 70% of energy-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, despite only accounting for 2% of global land.

There is often debate about what constitutes a sustainably smart city as far as transport is concerned. Jose Viegas, secretary general of the International Transport Forum for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said that beyond using new technologies, smart cities must have clear strategic objectives. Uniting different levels of government around a common set of objections can be difficult, he said.

Pex Langenberg, Vice Mayor of Rotterdam, noted it was important to involve the private sector in these big urban changes: “Never forget, don’t do it by yourself – ask the private sector to help and do their share.”

Stay tuned for continued coverage of Transforming Transportation later today on TheCityFix! In the meantime, join the conversation online using hashtag #TTDC15 and by following @EMBARQNetwork and @WBG_Transport on Twitter.

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