World leaders in Singapore back off from COP15 targets. Now what?

This is at least a double tragedy: a tragedy for our planet, and a tragedy for our ability to govern ourselves wisely. And in all this, the concept of sustainable transport is also a victim — because the linkage of transportation system reform to climate considerations is just about the most powerful argument for rapid change we have.

Singapore, Nov. 15 (UPI) — World leaders in Singapore backed off Saturday from a goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by roughly half by 2050.

Instead, leaders at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting approved a preliminary climate-change document that eliminated targets for emissions cuts.

A first draft of the document had called for a 50 percent drop from 1990 levels of greenhouse emissions by 2050, The Times of London said.

But that language was removed and the document was revised to say “we believe that global emissions will need to peak over the next few years, and be substantially reduced by 2050, recognizing that the time frame for peaking will be longer in developing economies.


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Now what?

Well, no one can say that we here at World Streets are really surprised. We have over the last months — as the record amply shows here: — persistently and perhaps at times irritatingly warned of just this, and tried to do what we can to spark this debate and tighten the transport/climate link. Which is after all a very real one, and one which we can do something about.

Look, you and I know a couple of important truths in all this: The transport sector represents something like twenty percent of the GHG problem. And beyond that, the reality is – if you are prepared to dig deep — that ours is the sector that is probably most amenable to mnassive rapid change. Because we know exactly what we need to do – drive down the quantum of mechanized travel (VMT/VKT) with impacting negatively on either quality of life or the economy.

And that is a challenge of the politics of transportation and behind that leadership and communication. That’s all there is to it. How complicated can that be?

Our goal, our primary objective here at World Streets is to see if we can do our bit to develop and support a strong consensus for at least talking about such an approach. But so far so bad.

Until now we continue to be smothered by a combination of inertia and indifference on the one hand, and the fact that those powerful lobbies that are doing pretty well in a no-change or slow-change scenario are continuing to dominate pubic policy and the media. They are extremely cagey and advance theri cause with huge budgets and excellent communications skills (and I am sorry to say most effectively thus far).

But that’s not the worst of it. Even, if you look carefully, many of our best environmental organizations and others in power, who should be rejecting the facility and the vacuity of this approach, you will see that their agenda, at the end of the day, accepts this go slow approach.

Now that’s a real problem because: “Go slow” equals “give up”.

How are we going to make our voices heard? We have to be more ambitious, more confident, and more effective. Think about it. This may be our only shot.

What about this? One city, one project, one person, one step at a time. That we can do.

Eric Britton

Editor, World Streets, Paris