Sustainable And Healthy Transport Can Help Boost Economies

January 22, 2009 at 2:00 pm Leave a comment

The global financial crisis is challenging governments committed to
implementing international agreements to reduce greenhouse-gas

At the High-level Meeting on Transport, Health and Environment in
Amsterdam, the Netherlands, policy-makers from ministries of transport,
health and the environment across Europe are examining how innovative
transport policies can create employment and economic opportunities for
a healthier society. Hosted by the Government of the Netherlands, the
High-level Meeting is taking place on 22-23 January 2009 and was
organized by the WHO Regional Office for Europe and the United Nations
Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

Transport contributes up to 10% of gross domestic product (GDP) and
provides jobs and access to leisure activities and livelihoods. Its
negative effects, however, include pollution, congestion, landscape
degradation and contributions to climate change, as well as morbidity
and mortality; the costs of these effects, estimated at about 8% of GDP,
threaten to offset the gains. Cardiovascular diseases and obesity from
physical inactivity, respiratory diseases from air pollution and
premature deaths and life-long disabilities from road traffic crashes
represent the largest part of the external costs of transport.

“Safe areas for walking and cycling and other forms of healthy transport
must be high priorities for government investment,” says Dr Nata
Menabde, Deputy Regional Director, WHO Regional Office for Europe. “The
pay-offs from these investments include not only new employment
opportunities but also improved health through increased physical
activity and better air quality. WHO calls on the participants in the
Meeting to create and construct more efficient transportation systems,
conducive to better health, reduced emissions, energy efficiency, and
the highest level of safety.”

Work of the High-level Meeting

Innovative transport policies with an integrated approach can turn the
challenges of the financial crisis into opportunities. The participants
at the High-level Meeting are looking for concrete answers and
solutions. They are expected to adopt action points for policy-makers
that help address the key challenges to the economy, health and the
environment. They are looking at the Transport, Health and Environment
Pan-European Programme (THE PEP) as a platform for making proposals:
* to advocate and stimulate economic investment in
energy-efficient and low-emission vehicles and technology, and
environmentally friendly transport modes and infrastructure,
particularly in urban settings; and
* to make health and environmental considerations a more explicit
criterion for decision-making on transport.

“Many countries have yet to muster the political support for cooperation
among the three sectors,” says Mr Paolo Garonna, Deputy Executive
Secretary of UNECE. “And many countries still have to set up
institutional arrangements for integrated policy- and decision-making to
achieve sustainable transport. THE PEP can provide a framework for an
integrated policy approach as a tripartite forum across the three
sectors, including industry and civil society and promoting good
practice among all countries in western, eastern and south-eastern
Europe, central Asia and the Caucasus.”

The participants are focusing on experiences from countries showing how
sustainable transport can boost health, the environment and the economy.
Studies show that investment in healthy and environmentally friendly
transport – including clean and efficient public transport systems and
transport infrastructure – can help reduce congestion, road traffic
accidents and pollution, thereby contributing to healthier societies,
sustainable mobility and wealth, and combating climate change.

Opening the Meeting, Mr Camiel Eurlings, the Dutch Minister of
Transport, Public Works and Water Management, said, “There is a need for
international cooperation on the development of the transport sector;
however, while aiming for this development, we should never let down our
guard on the impact of transport on our health and environment.”

The participants are expected to propose concrete action to include
environment and health considerations in transport policies,
particularly to support the achievement of four priority goals:

– contributing to economic development and job creation by
investing in environmentally friendly and healthy mobility;

– promoting more efficient transport systems;

– reducing emissions of transport-related greenhouse gases, air
pollutants and noise; and

– promoting policies and action conducive to healthy and safe

Finally, the Meeting will launch innovative tools for transport and
urban planners:

– the THE PEP toolbox of good practice in sustainable urban

– the health economic assessment tool (HEAT) for cycling; and

– guidance on how to quantify the health effects of cycling and

These will help planners to take account of health effects when
estimating costs and to integrate transport, environment and health
considerations in policy-making.
Further information is available on the web sites of THE PEP
(, the WHO Regional Office for Europe
( and UNECE




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