Global Forum on Electric Mobility & Conference on Sustainable Human Settlements

Remarks by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Secretary-General of the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20)

Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to join you at this Global Forum on Electric Mobility and Sustainable Human Settlements.

My Department is pleased to be a facilitator of this event together with a number of other Chinese, Brazilian and international partners.

I would like to express our profound gratitude to the Eletrobras Furnas, the largest renewable energy company in Brazil, for hosting this timely meeting and making excellent organizational arrangements.

I would also like to extend a warm welcome to the government officials, experts, and entrepreneurs from all over the world, who are actively participating in sharing expertise and experiences at this event

The focus of our discussion today – electric mobility and its relations to sustainable human settlements – is extremely timely

As many of you know, urbanization has been identified as one of the 7 priority areas right from the beginning of the preparations for Rio+20.

Efficient transport and mobility are an integral part of sustainable urbanization, as well as essential preconditions.

While there is emerging consensus on the critical role of sustainable transport and mobility, there are significant challenges ahead.

First, adequate transport infrastructure and affordable transport services are still widely lacking in many developing countries, in particular, in rural areas.

At the same time, increased urbanization and motorization have resulted in unprecedented congestion, wasteful energy use, increased motor vehicle emissions and deteriorating urban air quality in many cities. 

In both industrialized and developing countries, there are negative impacts on public health, living conditions and climate change.

Second, investments in research and development –R & D – are woefully inadequate.

To achieve the technological breakthroughs needed for sustainable transport, including electric mobility, we must substantially increase our investments, both human and financial.

This means developing countries will need support in enhanced means of implementation, in particular in technology transfer and capacity building. In pursuing sustainable transport, we don’t want to create a transport gap – with clean vehicles largely running in the cities of developed countries.

Third, we must do more to create an enabling environment that supports sustainable transport. Appropriate policy interventions are needed to establish transport systems that are: affordable, economically viable, socially acceptable and environmentally sound.

To achieve that objective, we need to reform our policy incentives and target investments at improving and expanding public transport systems, in particular within and between urban areas and facilitating mobility in rural areas.

Electric mobility has a critical role to play in achieving the goal of sustainable transport.

In this context, I want to stress that electric mobility and sustainable transport must be integrated into the broad strategy of sustainable human settlements.

And this leads us to our next topic.

My Department publishes population projections that are used across the world.

At present, the population of the world is over 7 billion. More than half of this 7 billion lives in urban areas.

By 2050, the world population is projected to reach nine billion; the urban population is projected to make up 70 percent of the world’s total population.

This era of urbanization is rapid, irreversible and unprecedented.

The issue of sustainable human settlements is vital, affected by many of the challenges that Rio+20 addresses: water, energy, food security, jobs, resilience to disasters.

Against this backdrop, let me raise three brief points related to sustainable cities.

First, the impacts of sustainable cities go beyond cities. Sustainable urbanization will help fight air pollution, save water, reduce emissions, and combat climate change.

Indeed, many experts and policymakers believe that while cities are significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions, they are also the key to solving this problem.

Just by focusing on greening two sectors – buildings and transport – we can make substantive progress in reducing emissions and addressing climate change.

This leads me to my second point: sustainable cities can become a cornerstone of a green economy, leading to job creation and improved livelihoods.

Consider the many industries where we might see new green jobs: building materials, renewable energy, air conditioning, green decoration, green household articles, green home appliances, electric and hybrid vehicles, electric bicycles and other new energy vehicles.

And this list is hardly exhaustive.  

Finally, sustainable cities should be designed with social equities and the eradication of poverty in mind.

We can’t have green buildings in one part of a city and dilapidated slums in another.

I’m sure everyone in this room agrees with that.

Therefore, national governments and local authorities should strengthen their efforts to improve the housing status of low-income people, protect their most basic rights of housing and provide them with opportunities to improve their skills for decent employment.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our modern globalized world faces unprecedented changes and challenges, of which we are all well aware.

They are interlinked; they are social, economic and environmental. Yet, they continue to be addressed in isolation.

While we all seem to understand that, our solutions are slow to evolve.

I hope today’s forum point us in the direction of innovative solutions on our quest for sustainable urbanization.

This is an opportunity not to be missed, and I look forward to enriching contributions to the final outcome of Rio+20 and beyond.

Thank you.