Transport plays a key enabling role in realising sustainable development. It contributes to the economy, trade and employment, but, on the other hand, it may face issues relating to the environment, traffic and safety. In its own-initiative opinion drafted by Tellervo Kylä-Harakka-Ruonala, the EESC reviews the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and, by providing a cross-cutting approach where the economic, social and environmental aspects come together, urges the Commission to prepare a new and integrated framework for future EU transport policy.
The "2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development" of the United Nations, adopted in 2015, includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) covering today's economic, social and environmental challenges, but not a single SDG, and only a few indicators used to monitor progress, are specifically focused on transport and mobility. Nevertheless, transport makes many SDGs possible: to name but a few examples, it allows for economic development, industry, trade and investment, and helps promote employment and well-being and to reduce inequalities and exclusion.
In turn, several SDGs indirectly refer to transport, for example energy, while others set requirements and restrictions for transport, such as the need to reduce climate and environmental impacts, improve transport systems and traffic safety, and deal with concerns relating to jobs and decent work.
In the EESC opinion adopted at the July plenary session, the EESC calls on the European Commission to consider all these aspects simultaneously and to come up with a new and integrated framework for the next generation of transport policy that tackles the economic, social and environmental dimensions. "Transport is a fundamental policy of the European Union but, unfortunately, its policy-making is still characterised by silos, which makes the approaches and initiatives somewhat fragmented. For example, market issues are part of transport policy while climate and energy-related issues are addressed as part of the Energy Union," said Ms Kylä-Harakka-Ruonala.
In addition, opportunities and challenges brought about by digitalisation and robotisation have to be properly managed. "Transport must be accessible, affordable, smooth and effective, as well as safe and secure, to enable the mobility of people and goods. To this end, in line with the SDGs, we need significant investments in proper infrastructure, innovation and well-functioning transport systems, including public transport," concluded Ms Kylä-Harakka-Ruonala.
The opinion also stresses that it is vital to involve civil society in the preparation and implementation of transport policy. The public sector must have a central role but bottom-up initiatives and partnerships must also be facilitated.
Finally, the EESC encourages the Commission to assess the SDG indicators from the point of view of transport and to promote the development of new indicators that are really relevant and in line with the new and integrated approach.