Benjamin De La Pena, Associate Director, The Rockefeller Foundation
Photo: Carles Baiges Camprubí
The University of Michigan’s SMART initiative, a Rockefeller Foundation grantee, recently selected Zambikes to receive its SMART Mobi Prize (2012 SMART Mobility Enterprize), recognizing entrepreneurial ventures in sustainable transportation. Zambikes is a social business that manufactures, assembles and distributes locally-manufactured, high quality bicycles, bicycle ambulances and cargo bicycle trailers to low-income households and community groups. The bikes not only provide zero-emissions transport but also empower individuals and communities to address pressing economic and social needs.
Innovations like Zambikes and the other Mobi Prize awardees, Hangzhou Omnipay (an innovative transport sharing and credit system) and Carolnetas Caronas Intelligentes (a collaborative carpooling service in Brazil); along with the spread of gold-standard bus rapid transit systems are some of the keys to making a future green economy more equitable and inclusive.
From Zambia to Rio and across the globe, transportation plays an enormous role in sustainable development, and promoting equitable and sustainable transportation in the US is a key focus for The Rockefeller Foundation. Following interventions by several groups and countries, Sustainable Transport is now mentioned as a key thematic area in the Framework for Action in Section V of the latest negotiating draft for Rio+20, but more attention needs to be paid to this critical sector – one of the most promising in terms of our transition to a green economy.
According to The Partnership for Sustainable, Low Carbon Transport (SLoCaT), a voluntary multi-stakeholder initiative that contributes to the implementation of Agenda 21, Rio+5 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI), “a stronger focus on public transport and non-motorized transport will strengthen access for low income groups. Reduced congestion and air pollution, as well as improved road safety, can translate into economic savings equal to several percentage points of GDP…. Long-term economic and social benefits, including improved health due to reduced pollution, can be achieved through investment in infrastructure and planning, while simultaneously creating valuable jobs.” (From Issues Brief: Sustainable, Low Carbon Transport in Emerging and Developing Economies. By UNCSD Secretariat and SLoCAT)
However, for the transport sector to be able to make a significant impact in our transition to a green economy, we, in agreement with SLoCaT, believe that there is a great need for a transport sector-specific Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development that will enable the UN organization and development banks to lead the way in scaling up sustainable, low-carbon transport policies and interventions.