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COP28: call to action to prioritise cycling and walking

December 03 2023 - News Release News Editorial

PATH open letter aims to help achieve climate goals and improve people’s lives.

COP28: call to action to prioritise cycling and walking

The 2023 Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC – more commonly referred to as COP28 – is the 28th United Nations for Climate Change Conference taking place at the Expo City in Dubai (United Arab Emirates) from 30 November until 12 December 2023.

In this context, and as a founding member of the Partnership for Active Travel and Health (PATH), the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) has signed the partnership’s open letter calling on the UNFCCC, governments and negotiators at COP28 to give more priority to – and increase investment in – walking and cycling. The letter follows PATH’s open letter for COP27 last year, which attracted over 400 signatures, also with the objective of significantly accelerating progress on climate goals and improving people’s lives by promoting walking and cycling. All non-profit organisations focused on the promotion of active mobility are encouraged to sign this year’s letter which can be accessed here.

Enabling more people to walk and cycle safely is crucial to decarbonising transport and achieving the objectives of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. As demonstrated by research led by the PATH, the potential for replacing motorised vehicle trips with walking and cycling is huge. Yet active transport still lacks priority in the UNFCCC and wider climate agenda, and in countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC – in other words, the means by which countries outline their commitments to reducing emissions in support of the Paris Agreement.)

NEW PATH REPORT

To get an overview of the international situation, PATH member Walk21 led the development of a new report entitled “National Policies for Walking and Cycling in all 197 UNFCCC countries”, which can be accessed here. This report analyses NDCs and other national walking and cycling policies and strategies in the 197 UNFCCC countries. While walking and cycling are gaining ground in national policies and strategies, the report reveals that more concerted and collaborative work is still needed.

PATH urges the UNFCCC to place higher priority on walking and cycling in climate negotiations, and UNFCCC countries to develop their national policies and NDCs with a common vision: to enable people to access safe, accessible, comfortable, and enjoyable walking and cycling experiences to mitigate climate change, support public transport, reduce emissions, benefit public health, and create vibrant and inclusive societies.

To facilitate this work the PATH report includes a template that gives guidance to countries on how they can create and include plans, funding and concrete actions for:

  • Infrastructure – to make walking and cycling safe, accessible and easy to do
  • Campaigns – to support a shift in people’s mobility habits
  • Land use planning – to ensure proximity and quality of access to everyday services on foot and by bike
  • Integration with public transport – to underpin sustainable mobility for longer trips
  • Capacity building – to enable the successful delivery of effective walking and cycling strategies that have measurable impact.

In the lead up to COP28, the UCI interviewed Jill Warren, CEO of PATH member, the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF), and also a member of the UCI Cycling for All & Sustainable Cycling Commission.

QUESTION: CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHY PATH WAS CREATED, AND HOW IMPORTANT THIS COLLABORATION IS FOR THE FUTURE OF ACTIVE MOBILITY – AND THE PROMOTION OF CYCLING IN PARTICULAR – ON A GLOBAL LEVEL?

Jill Warren (JW): “The PATH coalition was created to raise greater awareness of cycling and walking’s key role as a solution to climate, health and equity challenges. Members are working together to try to unlock walking and cycling’s potential to accelerate the achievement of climate goals and other benefits. This means greater prioritisation and investment, including through national transport, health and environment strategies and through NDCs.”

QUESTION: WHAT KEY FINDINGS FROM THE RECENT PATH REPORT ARE PARTICULARLY RELEVANT TO HIGHLIGHT IN THE CONTEXT OF THE COP28 NEGOTIATIONS?

JW: “The research shows that there is growing momentum for walking and cycling, with two thirds of UNFCCC countries having some kind of active travel policy in place. However, much more ambition, action and investment are needed almost everywhere to fast track active mobility’s ability to help reduce transport emissions, air pollution, traffic congestion and road casualties, and at the same time deliver improved public health, stronger economies and fairer societies.

“Often the policies or NDCs lack concrete targets and don’t have a transversal approach (such as between transport and environment ministries). Only eight countries have consistently linked walking and cycling between national policies and NDCs to deliver on climate, environment, and equity goals – and not the ones you might expect: apart from Singapore the others are all low- or middle-income countries and include Bangladesh, Bhutan, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Uganda.”

COP28 SIDE EVENT

Active mobility, its benefits and its promotion, will be further highlighted at an official COP28 side event within the Expo City Dubai entitled Walking and Cycling Policies, Investments, and Inclusion in NDCs for Climate, Health and Equity. This will take place on Saturday 2 December from 16.45 – 18.15 local time (13.45 to 15.15 CET).  The PATH will be represented at this side event, which is co-organised by the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF), Despacio and the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP).

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