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Three questions about Sustainable Development

You will most likely recognise the following animation:

It has recently been all over the Internet and social media. Picturing Seattle’s 2nd Avenue, the first frame shows the street packed with 200 people in 177 cars. However, in the second frame, you see that inside each vehicle there’s no more than one commuter. Placing people on bicycles or public transportation vehicles reduces the five-lane occupation down to one.

A lot has been said and talked about sustainable development and mobility, but do we know what it actually means? Here are three fundamental questions about this subject that we’ll answer in an easy way:

1. What is sustainable development and mobility?

Sustainable development has multiple definitions, with the most common being from the Brundtland Report (1987):

“Sustainable development is the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It contains within it two key concepts: the concept of needs, in particular, the essential needs of the world’s poor, to which overriding priority should be given; the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organisation on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs” [1].

Following this logic, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) argues that sustainable mobility, as a priority for everyday’s life and a definition, can meet the societies’ needs to circulate freely, have access, communicate, negotiate and establish relationships without sacrificing other ecological or human resources.

2. How has mobility changed climate?

Travelling is one of the activities that consumes the most energy in a developed world, and it also is the primary source of greenhouse gases’ emission, of territory occupation and noise pollution.

Burning fossil fuels in everyday mobility transportation vehicles is one of the main sources of pollution of human origin.

3. What are governments doing towards sustainable development and Climate Changing?

In December 2015, at the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, all countries agreed to achieve two global goals together:

●      Keep the long-term global temperature increase well below 2 degrees centigrade, or if possible, below 1.5 degrees (at this pace global temperature will increase 2.7ºC by 2050);

●      Achieve a Global Goal on Adaptation (GCA);

Countries have also granted, at the Paris Agreement, to track the progress towards achieving both these goals through a periodic process of global stocktaking, done by adding up the mitigation and adaptation actions by each country as provided in their respective National Determined Contribution (NDC) and National Adaptation Plan (NAP) reports.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) based in Paris, France, convened a Climate Change Experts Group Forum earlier this month to bring together experts and negotiators from the key negotiating groups to try to get some consensus at the technical level on measuring mitigation and adaptation for the first Global Stock take. [2]

This implies that every 5 years, countries who agreed at the COP21 have to evaluate their measures, its efficiency and possible adaptation to achieve both goals until 2100. It might sound to be really far away, but reality is at a vertiginous pace, so we shouldn’t underestimate this subject.

These are the main reasons why there are several public initiatives to citizens to use public transportation, or at least avoid travelling by car, in different countries. In Paris, a day without cars showed that levels of nitrogen dioxide dropped by 40% in some parts of the city.

These are exciting news, right? Get in touch with us to find out more about sustainable development ideas for our cities.

We hope you have enjoyed this post.

[1] Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future http://www.un-documents.net/our-common-future.pdf
[2] A long way to go on climate change adaptation: http://www.icccad.net/a-long-way-to-go-on-climate-change-adaptation/