Norman Mineta, Member of the Commission for Global Road Safety, says the report is a wake-up call for Rio+20
The Rio+20 summit must adopt a sustainable transport policy which makes human and environmental protection an urgent priority in order to help prevent millions of deaths, combat poverty and build on progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, according to a report by the Make Roads Safe campaign issued on 2 May.
With an explosion in vehicle ownership levels across the developing world forecast over the next 10 years, the escalating humanitarian and environmental costs will be catastrophic, unless action is taken immediately, warns the report.
The report calls on the Rio+20 summit to adopt an agenda for sustainable transportation which puts vulnerable road users first, providing greater protection for pedestrians and cyclists and improving public transport to encourage alternatives to vehicle use for short journeys, cutting congestion and reducing carbon emissions and exhaust pollution. The Global Plan for the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety should be more widely and comprehensively implemented.
Kevin Watkins, author of ‘Safe and Sustainable Roads – an agenda for Rio+20’, said: “The body count of road traffic injury fatalities, air pollution and the impact of vehicle emissions on climate change are viewed as a form of collateral damage – the inevitable price of economic progress. This is precisely the type of anachronistic thinking that was challenged at the first Earth Summit back in 1992, and that Rio+20 must again challenge now.”
The report was issued at the Decade of Action Policy and Donor Forum, 2012 in New York. The Policy and Donor Forum was organised by the Road Safety Fund, and the Commission for Global Road Safety in association with The Guardian’s global development website.
Participants included Mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg, Nelson Mandela’s daughter Zindzi Mandela, and his granddaughter Zoleka Mandela. Transport ministers from South Africa and Sweden, the Transport Commissioner of New York City, Transport Director of the World Bank and the Executive Coordinator of Rio+20 also participated.
The report came as a number of road safety organisations issued a call to UN negotiators preparing the Rio+20 communique. Describing road injury as a “human, economic and environmental disaster”, organizations including the World Resources Institute, Asia Injury Prevention Foundation, International Road Federation, FIA Foundation, Make Roads Safe, the International Federation of Road Traffic Victims and Roadpeace combined to urge governments not to neglect road safety as part of Rio+20.
The report highlights some grave trends which are emerging as the growth in road transport spirals out of control across the developing world:
- Those living in poverty, predominantly not vehicle owners, are bearing the brunt of the road injury epidemic. In Mumbai, pedestrians account for over three-quarters of road traffic fatalities. Many are killed on the journey to work from the slums that house half of the city’s population. This is a pattern replicated for poor communities in developing countries globally;
- A global surge in demand for vehicles has already pushed the number of cars and trucks on the world’s roads over the 1 billion mark, with emerging markets driving this growth. With an unprecedented increase in the number of vehicles in the world’s poorest countries over the next two decades, the epidemic of road traffic injury is set to get much worse;
- The environmental impact will also be severe. Already 1.3 million deaths are estimated to be caused, at least in part, by respiratory illness caused by air pollution. And with car ownership set to triple by 2050 – and all of the growth in the developing world - transport-related CO2 emissions could increase by almost 50% by 2030 and 80% by 2050 unless fuel efficiency and traffic control measures are implemented;
- Urbanisation is pushing highly vulnerable populations into harm’s way. Cities ranking in the top ten for child numbers are not equipped to cope with simultaneous population increases vehicle growth without exposing children to acute road safety risks.
- Financing of road safety is still far too low. Upwards of $500bn annually is spent on road infrastructure. Yet the combined level of donor aid for road safety is estimated at between US $10-25m a year. This falls far short of the $200m annually, that the Commission for Global Road Safety estimates will be required to translate the Global Plan for the Decade of Action into results.
Hon. Norman Mineta, former US Transportation Secretary and Member of the Commission for Global Road Safety, said: “This is a wake-up call for Rio+20. There is still time to ensure that road safety, as part of an enlightened approach to sustainable transportation, is included within the summit framework. We already have the solutions, in the UN’s Decade of Action for Road Safety, and we know it is possible to save millions of lives by 2020. We surely cannot afford to miss the opportunity that Rio+20 provides to at last bring road safety into the mainstream of sustainable development. “
Click here for a copy of ‘Safe and Sustainable Roads – an agenda for Rio+20’ >