Today is World Day for Sustainable Transport, a date proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly last May to recognize the important role that safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems play in supporting economic growth, reducing environmental and climate impacts, and improving people’s social well-being.
It also notes that while transportation is vital to foster connectivity, trade, economic growth and employment, it can become a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.
In this context, the United Nations indicates that, worldwide, the average annual carbon footprint per person is 5.9 tons. Meanwhile, the overall increase in population continues to generate widespread use of personal transportation, which leads to high levels of noise and environmental pollution. Urban areas are particularly sensitive to this issue, as they are home to 54% of the world’s population and this figure is expected to reach 68% by 2050, according to the World Cities Report 2022, prepared by UN-Habitat.
As a result, greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that global warming is already at 1.1°C, close to the 1.5°C limit set in the Paris Agreement. In response to this, the United Nations has set a zero emissions target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by almost half by 2030 and to reach “net zero” by 2050.
In line with the above, sustainable transportation is presented as a fundamental alternative for the adaptation and mitigation of the effects of climate change and to advance sustainable development.
Thus, cycling or walking, whenever possible, contributes to cleaner air by reducing the use of combustion vehicles. The United Nations points out that a vehicle-free lifestyle can reduce the carbon footprint by up to 2 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year, compared to a combustion vehicle lifestyle. Likewise, promoting these more sustainable means of transport also helps to reduce congestion levels in cities, helping to solve mobility problems and having a positive impact on the reduction of noise pollution levels, since more than 70% of noise in cities comes from motorized traffic.
In addition, these travel options have great benefits for people’s physical and mental health. According to the World Health Organization, the practice of physical activities that involve mobility avoids a sedentary lifestyle, helping to improve muscular and cardiorespiratory fitness and promoting a feeling of well-being, as well as reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression.
On the other hand, for longer distances, UNO recommends the use of public transport as another way to commit to sustainable mobility. In this sense, the use of the bus for travel can avoid the pollution of 50 vehicles, and the capacity of means of transport such as the train or the subway would be equivalent to 400 passenger cars.
However, if no alternative can be chosen, the United Nations Organization points out the possibility of minimizing the impact by sharing vehicles or opting for hybrid or electric models, allowing the latter to reduce the carbon footprint by an average of 2 tons per year. For all of the above reasons, the promotion of sustainable mobility contributes not only to improving people’s health but also to the promotion of a healthier planet.