The 13th UN Intergovernmental Regional Environmentally Sustainable Transport (EST) Forum in Asia, now organised on an annual basis by UNCRD (United Nations Centre for Regional Development), was hosted virtually in Bangkok, Thailand on 10 and 11 November 2020, in conjunction with the 6th UNESCAP Session of the Committee on Transport.
As the main railway organisation advocating for the development of the railway sector as a major sustainable mode of transport, UIC has been a regular partner of this event since the 7th edition was held in Bali, Indonesia in April 2013.
The theme of the 13th edition was “Changing the Course of Asia’s Transport Sector through Transformational Changes”. Asian countries have been progressively adopting and implementing sustainable transport policies and programmes, in the face of the continent’s numerous challenges, by building transport systems that are economically, socially and environmentally sustainable, and which can accelerate economic and social development. In the meantime, in common with members in other parts of the world, UIC Asia-Pacific railway members are struggling to overcome the impacts of the current Covid-19 pandemic.
Reduced in scope to a virtual two-day event, the Forum was opened by Messrs Kazushige Endo (Director, UNCRD), Yoshihiro Yamamoto (Director General, Environment Management Bureau, Ministry of the Environment Government of Japan), Yasuhiro Ishihara (Deputy Minister for International Projects, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, Japan) and Kaveh Zahedi (Deputy Executive Secretary, UNESCAP), while the keynote address was delivered by Mr Bambang Susantono (Vice President, Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development, ADB).
The Forum was composed of four plenary sessions and three policy dialogues, and UIC was invited this time to take part in the first policy dialogue on “Transport connectivity and sustainable development: Connecting Asia-Pacific to regional and global markets”. Mr François Davenne, UIC Director General, delivered a presentation on “Railways as the backbone of regional sustainable connectivity and a green recovery”. It was followed by a panel discussion, during which Mr Davenne, together with Ms Lucie Anderton, Head of Sustainable Development UIC, highlighted that rail plays an important role in the movement of people and goods, and suggested that it could support green recovery as the backbone of sustainable mobility and provide connectivity, contributing to healthy and sustainable lifestyles and economies throughout the world. The UIC Railway Climate Declaration and innovation in railways are intended to accelerate the transition towards net zero emissions by 2050.
These two days also provided an opportunity to share the current experiences of Asian countries of the Covid-19 pandemic situation, as well as recommendations made by all international organisations working to improve land transport modes in a greener and more sustainable way.
Ultimately, this will lead to setting out the concept and process for the successor to the Bangkok 2020 Declaration/New Declaration (2020-2030), which will in turn ensure strong alignment with the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development/SDGs in the Asia-Pacific Region.
For more information, please see https://sdgs.un.org/events/thirteenth-intergovernmental-regional-environmentally-sustainable-transport-est-forum-asia.