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Looking back and forward to sustainable transport cooperation in ASEAN

Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia – ASEAN and its member states have intensified their policy cooperation on sustainable transport yet more action is needed to effectively address effect of transport to the climate change. At its recent regional project closing event on 12th November, the ASEAN-German Technical Cooperation Project on “Energy Efficiency and Climate Change Mitigation in the Land Transport Sector of the ASEAN Region” or “Transport and Climate Change” (TCC) took stock of ASEAN’s achievements and successes in 6 years of cooperation and looked ahead to the challenges and future opportunities for cooperation.

The Regional Closing Workshop was a venue for knowledge exchange among partners and relevant stakeholders of the project; revisiting the project’s deliverables, lessons learned and moving beyond the project support, independently and progressively.

The event took place just days after the 24th ASEAN Transport Ministers Meeting held on 8th November, which adopted a set of regional guidance documents on sustainable land transport that were developed in cooperation with TCC:

  • ASEAN Regional Strategy on Sustainable Land Transport, which establishes a regional vision for sustainable transport and offers guidance to ASEAN Member States for developing strategies and action plans at national and regional-level, as well as implementing mechanism to achieve the targets;
  • ASEAN Fuel Economy Roadmap for the Transport Sector, which includes an aspirational goal to improve the average fuel efficiency of light-duty vehicles sold in the region by 26% until 2025; and
  • Guidelines on Sustainable Land Transport Indicators on Energy Efficiency and Green House Gas (GHG) Emissions in ASEAN, which provide overview and methodology for data collection of the selected sustainable transport indicators.

Mr. Roland Haas, former Director of the Cities, Environment and Transport in the ASEAN Region programme welcomed the ~50 participants from partnering government agencies, ASEAN member states, international development agencies, NGOs, academics and private sector.

Mr. Friedel Sehlleier, TCC Deputy Director, referred in his keynote speech to these achievements when outlining how ASEAN worked with GIZ on multiple facets of sustainable transport policy cooperation. He highlighted numerous activities from 6 years of cooperation including focused discussions with all ten ASEAN Member States in the Expert Group on Sustainable Land Transport; multi-stakeholder workshops on green freight transport, fuel economy or electric two-wheelers and trainings on monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) for transport. Mr. Sehlleier closed his speech by appreciating the progress on transport and climate change policies at regional and national-level while also reminding of the giant tasks ahead in terms of implementation and raising the level of ambition.

Mr Beny Irzanto from the ASEAN Secretariat updated the participants on the outcomes of 24th ASEAN Transport Ministers Meeting as well as other relevant ASEAN ministerial meetings. He highlighted that the development of sustainable transport and the efforts to mitigate climate change require concerted cross-sectoral efforts from various stakeholders and therefore, the ASEAN Transport Ministers welcomed collaboration with the relevant sectors for the cross-sectoral issues to enhance integrated and sustainable transport network and to support achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Additionally, ASEAN has also established the ASEAN Smart Cities Network, concluded the ASEAN Agreement on E-Commerce and completed the Assessment of ASEAN Readiness for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0) and its recommendations, all of which would relate to the development of sustainable transport in the future. Sustainable transport remains to be an important topic in 2019, particularly with the Thailand’s Chairmanship of ASEAN which puts emphasis on sustainable development.

Additional perspectives on 6 years TCC implementation came from the five TCC partner countries who shared what were the main activities undertaken, key results, challenges and lessons learned in Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Philippines and Indonesia. Click here for a collection of country posters.  Participants who had written their take-aways from this knowledge exchange on a card were eligible for a price draw, and six lucky participant won local handy-crafts from various ASEAN countries.

TCC alumni perspectives were shared via short video messages from two former TCC project leaders, Mr. Stefan Bakker and Mr. Tali Trigg. Mr. Bakker expressed his delight that many outputs from TCC Project in the past six years were adopted by ASEAN and partners. Similarly, Mr. Trigg applauded the unique ASEAN cooperation & harmonisation approach in working opportunities, overcoming challenges and learning together to improve sustainable transport in the region.

What does the future hold for sustainable transport cooperation in ASEAN?

During the TCC project, ASEAN made significant progress in intensifying regional cooperation on sustainable transport and in making it a firm part of its agenda. The panellist of the workshop closing panel (see photo below) agreed that this momentum must go on in 2019 and beyond. The panel was optimistic that ASEAN cooperation would make use of the guidance developed with the support from TCC Project and consider the follow-up on the recommended actions from the Fuel Economy Roadmap and the ASEAN Regional Strategy on Sustainable Land Transport.

To amplify the momentum and to support future action, ASEAN-German technical cooperation will continue through the new project “Sustainable Mobility in Medium-Sized Metropolitan Regions”, whereas UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and Clean Air Asia will keep on working with selected member states and in regional dialogue formats through, for example, the Global Fuel Economy Initiative or the Better Air Quality Forums.

Asked about new “hot topics” for ASEAN transport cooperation, Glynda Bathan from Clean Air Asia said that the priority for governments should be to take their current policies and measures ‘to the finish line’ rather than jumping on the ‘next big thing’. The solutions for low-emission urban transport are known and available, and strategies are in place, therefore a focus on implementation is key.

Bert Fabian from UNEP acknowledged that new, smart mobility technologies and services may disrupt transport as we know it in ASEAN countries over the next decade. The regulatory challenge for policymakers will be to keep up with the pace of change and to ensure a less car-based integrated multimodal transport system.

Roland Haas, GIZ, agreed by emphasizing that ‘an electric car is still a car’ and further mentioned green logistics as area that still deserves more attention by governments and donors.

Representative from ASEAN Secretariat highlighted that transport sector would become more important in the future, due to the increase of connectivity in the region. ASEAN sectoral body on transport provides a platform for ASEAN Member States to deliberate issues on transport in the region, including on sustainable transport, which is guided by the ASEAN Transport Strategic Plan 2016-2025 / Kuala Lumpur Transport Strategic Plan (KLTSP). While the timeframe of KLTSP spans until 2025, there would be opportunity for ASEAN to further elaborate the regional agenda on sustainable transport beyond 2025, taking into account the global agenda of this issue.

Carolin Capone, GIZ Project Director for Sustainable Transport in Thailand/ASEAN, and Mr. Sehlleier concluded the workshop with a ‘see you soon’ rather than a ‘goodbye’ because of GIZ’s continuing assistance on behalf of the German government. They called the entire regional TCC team on stage to give recognition and to perform the ASEAN-handshake as a thank you gesture to each other, to project partners, experts and friends.