Transport & the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals

Icons for each of the UN's 17 sustainable development goals with ticks against 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, and 16
Posted on: February 1, 2023 Posted by: Liz Davidson Comments: 0

Transport & the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals

Post-podcast, I looked again at the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and where transport intersects with them.

FIFTEEN is my conclusion.

Below the goals are itemised with our reasoning for the influence of transport and some links, where relevant, to further reading or listening.

  1. No poverty.
    Yes. Goal number 1 feels like a bit of a catch-all. Arguably all of the other goals would equate to a world without poverty. So, does improving transport contribute to ‘No poverty’? Yes, it does.
  2. Zero hunger.
    Yes. Getting food to people requires logistics – that’s transport.
  3. Good health and well-being.
    Yes. Active travel, cycling and walking, are obvious contenders here. However, transport also enables social interaction (tackling the loneliness that kills people) as well as being the vital link to accessing medical and therapeutic services.

    Conversely, bad transport pollutes our air and kills our children.

  4. Quality education.
    A lot goes into providing a quality education and digital technologies mean some learning is moving online. But, ultimately, humans are social and for many (most?) face-to-face time is when the learning starts. Transport is the link. 
  5. Gender equality.
    Yes. From the disproportionate number of women’s deaths in car collisions, to snow ploughing roads before pavements, to violence and intimidation on public transport, women have been losing out in the transport arena for too long.

    Fortunately, there’s some fantastic work going on to expose the injustice and explore solutions.

  6. Clean water and sanitation. 
    Perhaps not this one.
  7. Affordable and clean energy.
    The transition to EVs (electric vehicles) is a hot topic. However, while EVs will be part of the mix in the future, many commentators point out that we can’t afford a straight transition from ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles to EVs.

    They’re too carbon-expensive to build and their transport-delivered-to-energy-used ratio is too inefficient.

    For the world to reach carbon emission targets we have to drastically reduce the amount of energy we use and that means we have to focus on energy efficient transport modes so that there’s enough affordable and clean energy for other things.

  8. Decent work and economic growth. 
    Getting people to work, getting goods to people, that’s all transport.
  9. Industry, innovation and infrastructure.
    These are the means to point 8. But their impact goes beyond that. How and where infrastructure is built has societal implications, see point 10, and increasingly, it will include digital infrastructure – Professor Glenn Lyons talks a lot about triple access planning. Plus, in an era of extreme weather and changing landscapes, we need infrastructure that is more resilient than it has needed to be in the past.
  10. Reduced inequalities.
    Access to jobs, education, and leisure are essential to reducing inequalities.
  11. Sustainable cities and communities.
    Not exclusively transport, but how people and goods move around cities is a huge part of sustainability.
  12. Responsible consumption and production.
    I refer to point 7. Consuming vast energy to inefficiently move a person in a heavy boxes on wheels isn’t responsible.
  13. Climate action.
    Estimates vary but largely indicate that 25% of greenhouse gas emissions are attributable to transport.
  14. Life below water.
    Live below water comes into sharp focus as we work towards Goal 7.

    Battery technology – and the minerals they need e.g., lithium and cobalt – is a hot topic. Many of these minerals can be found in the sea. But there are implications. This is a fascinating podcast on the subject.

  15. Life on land.
    The heated debate on HS2 and the destruction of ancient woodlands gives a flavour of the challenge of building modern infrastructure that balances economic ‘levelling up’ with low carbon transport links and preserving natural habitats.
  16. Peace, justice and strong institutions.
    From Bridge over the River Kwai, to For Whom the Bell Tolls, to the conflict in the Ukraine, transport links are a target during conflicts.

    Given transport’s massive impact on the availability of life’s basic necessities, it’s easy to see why. Peace, justice, and strong institutions are the keystones to ensuring the other outcomes are possible.

  17. Partnerships for the goals.
    I’m not claiming this one – but perhaps I could? After all, at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos last week, world leaders got there somehow…

Agree? Disagree? I’m interested in your thoughts. Please do get in touch or comment below.

And thank you for making it this far! Liz x

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