Greener transport options to move are becoming more accessible through digital means

THE PEP clean, safe, healthy and inclusive mobility and transport
Get to know more about the UN helping countries to transition to greener and healthier mobility and transport
1 Apr 2023

Travel is a necessary part of daily life. Being able to go to work, visit friends, or run errands requires us to take the car, bus or train, or to cycle or walk. Did you know that every year, more than 500,000 people die prematurely in the World Health Organization (WHO) European region due to air pollution? Or that transport is responsible for about a quarter of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions? The Transport, Health and Environment Pan-European Programme (THE PEP) seeks to address these challenges by finding the best balance between transport and mobility needs, human health and well-being, and the quality of the environment.

What is THE PEP?

THE PEP was established back in 2002. It is the only United Nations programme designed to promote environmental and health issues in the context of transport policies. At the heart of THE PEP lies the understanding that positive changes in enhancing green mobility require the collective effort of the transport, health and environment sectors.

How does it work?

THE PEP is a member States-driven programme. The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) – covering environment and transport issues – and the WHO Regional Office for Europe serve as the secretariat of THE PEP. These two organizations work together to assist member states, national authorities, and through them, local authorities, with the support of experts and relevant stakeholders.

Member States are invited to benefit from and contribute to THE PEP implementation through activities such as THE PEP Partnerships (under which specific topics such as active mobility, eco-driving and jobs in green transport are dealt with), and relay race workshops. For the past 20 years, THE PEP has contributed to sustainable development and green mobility. Two decades of collaboration between the three sectors have produced valuable outcomes. Effective cooperation at the national and local levels between multiple authorities and stakeholders has sometimes proven, and still can prove, to be challenging.

Contributing to green mobility?

The goal of THE PEP is to increase the usage of clean, safe, healthy and inclusive mobility and transport for all. Therefore, the programme will continue to support member states and relevant stakeholders to work on mobility challenges and appropriate strategies to address them. The twentieth anniversary meeting of THE PEP in 2022 identified specific challenges for member states to focus on. These include: increasing the share of use of public transport after the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic; decarbonizing mobility; increasing accessibility and inclusivity for underserved groups and individuals; and developing infrastructure and multimodality to increase connections to remote or rural areas.

THE PEP is taking concrete actions to address these challenges by producing user-friendly tools, guides and briefs that present solution mechanisms that directly help member states in developing appropriate policy solutions associated with health and environment. For example:

• The Pan-European Master Plan for Cycling Promotion (the sole activity of its kind in the UNECE region), which contains guidelines and tools to assist member states in their policies and plans at the national level.

• THE PEP studies on green jobs which showed that increasing cycling in our cities creates jobs. Furthermore, in the pan-European region, 750,00 jobs could be created if the main cities had the same cycling share as Copenhagen, alongside 2.9 million jobs if 50 per cent of all vehicles manufactured were electric.

• The Partnership on Eco-Driving aims to support national and local actors by providing guidelines and tools to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve road safety and reduce congestion. Since the launch of the Austrian klima:aktiv mobil eco-driving initiative, CO2 emissions from transport have been reduced by 640,000 tons per year in Austria.

• A United Nations task force was set up in 2020 to develop recommendations for green and healthy sustainable transport to assist member States in the post COVID-19 recovery. Bringing together over 50 experts from member states, international institutions, academia and public transport operators, the task force developed key recommendations that member states can implement to support recovery efforts.

Steps towards a green future?

Alongside green jobs, THE PEP is focused on inclusive and equitable transport systems that consider vulnerable groups, gender and youth-friendly solutions. As part of this, the programme will continue to support member states and stakeholders to work on strategies and challenges associated with transport, health and the environment. Building on experience gained through the Pan-European Master Plan for Cycling Promotion, THE PEP is preparing a pan-European master plan on walking. A master plan on child- and youth-friendly mobility is also under preparation and is planned for action in 2025, at the next ministerial meeting. The future for countries is a move towards greener, healthier and sustainable mobility for prosperity for all through THE PEP! 

* Virginia Fuse works in UNECE on THE PEP; Giorgia Monsignori works as an intern at the UNECE Environment Division.
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