WBCSD Mobility 2030 - International Peer Review
Sunday, July 18, 2004, Paris, France, Europe
Subject: WBCSD Mobility 2030 report - International Peer Review
Note 1: It will be good if possible to retain this subject heading for future reference
Note 2: ITDP is asking for our full feedback by 30 July (a bit tight for an interactive review? Maybe one month from today?)
This cooperation with the ITDP and all of us in this cooperative venture strikes me as an truly admirable example of a concrete way in which we can put our long and carefully developed, highly knowledgeable and fully independent world policy and practice network to work in the cause of sustainable development and social justice. I think we all agree that the WBCSD report and its recommendations needs to be put into the proper perspective of the real issues and choices that together constitute the sustainability agenda. And that as it stands this is a job which has yet to be done.
Our ultimate goal is of course not to trash the WBCSD report – nobody’s perfect – but rather to see if we can seize this opportunity to set what they have done in a much needed broader, true activist sustainability perspective. The sponsors offer it as a step in a process which has yet to be engaged. There I think we are all in full agreement with them. So let’s engage.
I am sure that we are all pretty much agreed that when we want to do is achieve useful positive results. Thus, rather than nag them, I propose that we seize this deliberately as a rare opportunity to lay the base for a real international coalition in favor of sustainable development – and sustainable mobility – with a strong commitment to the real bottom line. Our view of sustainability is that the contrary conditions are there, pressing terribly hard, and that all the trends are in the wrong direction. Sustainability will not wait.
But where, if this is so important, is this huge and one would hope spirited public dialogue taking place? For my part, I have scanned for critical articles that take an honest whack at the issues but thus far have been unable to come up with any. (See below for a quick summary of articles identified in the process.) Such an important problem area, and such little honest informed discussion. Hmm.
Let me not push this further for now, since my role here is not to blab but to help as I can in simulating and facilitating the discussions and process which we are now engaging. So, in addition to Lisa’s three good points below, along with those brought up by Eric Bruun and Lee Schipper (also below), let me propose the following points and questions that it may be worthwhile commenting:
- Sub-text: There is a huge hidden sub-text which I believe is vital here. It is this: ”Every day that the present transportation paradigm continues without radical overhaul is money in the bank for the report’s auto and energy industry sponsors: BP, DaimlerChrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Michelin, Nissan, Norsk Hydro, Renault, Shell, Toyota and Volkswagen”. If this is true, it means that the level of both urgency – and their responsibility at the major financial beneficiaries of the present arrangements – becomes quite other than what we see in those pages.
- Missing issues? The report deals with a fairly long list of issues, targets. Good. But what are the issues that it is failing to address? Can we make a good list of these? And what are the consequences of this/these failures?
- Surprising recommendations? Can we – can they? – point up any surprising recommendations that might not have been anticipated, given who they are, what they are doing, and where their interests lie.
- Time horizon? What about the time horizon chosen? Is 2030 the right time horizon to focus on for issues such as these? For the decisions that need to be taken today – if the issues are indeed urgent. What is the implication of this choice? The cost?
- Gravitas and quieting > style=='font-size:11.0pt'>: And what about the implications of the report coming as it does from a respected international group like the WBCSD whose announced mission is “To provide business leadership as a catalyst for change toward sustainable development, and to promote the role of eco-efficiency, innovation and corporate social responsibility.”
· I.e., does their report have the effect of “quieting uncertainty about the dilemma of our present unsustainability and hence via sub-text delaying action and encouraging passivity in the face of challenges that need to have highest profile and be addressed with real urgency starting today”.
- The process: The sponsors indicate that they have put four years of work with some two hundred participants in to this report, but as I look over their process I for one cannot spot any surprises,. It looks to me like the usual “managed outreach” approach which we see go0vts and industry engaging in all too often. But is that right? (I invite comment on this point, since we are in effect breaking their intended pattern, and perhaps if anyone ever does this again, they should be using a deeper and more opening critical model for pulling their information and recommendations together).
- $50 oil? What about $50 oil? Does that make any difference? Can it be harnessed as not so much part of the problem but an element of the solution?
- Slamming session? Should we in addition to the more measured discussions have a wide open slamming and criticism session aimed at somewhat cruelly commenting (a) the current transportation paradigm and (b) the sponsors’ role in locking it in? And jokes (including black humor). I think so because we need to open up the debate – something which they appear to have rigorously avoided despite their claims to the contrary – and even if most of this will never make it into our final report and recommendations, it nonetheless scan be a source of energy and new idea. So let’s have at it, without ever forgetting that we are ladies and gentlemen.
- Inviting sponsors and authors: I am asking Thorsten Arndt, Online Communications Manager of the WBCSD to be so kind as to inform all of those concerned within their network, including the authors and participants in the report and the process behind it, to come into this open international discussion and take active part. The program officer for the project is Miss. Claudia Schweizer. I very much hope that they will join in this important group venture. Indeed their report invites just this,
- Why are we doing this? Finally, what’s our message and to whom do we address it? I would suggest that there will be several eventual audiences, each of whom/which need to be addressed briefly in a final report. Positive messages to which they can respond! Among them:
- The WBCSD itself
- The report’s twelve auto and energy industry sponsors
- The world of industry and finance that constitutes the world auto and energy sector.
- The international organizations and groups that are giving the report generally uncritical acceptance and public notice. Among them, the OECD, IEA, EC, ECMT and others whom we can usefully identify and target for our collective kind words and counsel.
- All those groups world wide that say they are working on the sustainability agenda.
- And since we are above all talking about cities here, the mayors, local government and the concerned citizens and groups who are ready to take an active role in shaping their cities. That’s where it all has to begin.
The only other thing that comes to mind to kick this off is the importance of ensuring that once we have a solid piece of work with creative recommendations, we need to ensure that it gets highest levels of media coverage. Of course the ITDP team is well placed to do this, but given the large number of us in this network and our wide international presence, I vote that we all have a go at this when the time comes.
Ladies, gentelmen. To your pens.
· The full 180 report and various pieces of it asre avialble as PDF files from http://www.wbcsd.org/plugins/DocSearch/details.asp?type==DocDet&DocId=`94
· The 17 page Overview - minimum reading for comment? (The 7 page Ex Sum is less useful.)
· Some press coverage: (Are they all saying basically the same thing? Have they bought in? Without really thinking about it? Hmm.)
-----Original Messages -----
From: sustran-discuss-bounces+ecoplan.adsl==wanadoo.fr@... Behalf Of Lisa Peterson
Sent: Friday, July 16, 2004 9:35 PM
To: 'Asia and the Pacific sustainable transport'; eric.britton@...
WBCSD & the auto industry - part of the solution, but how?
Eric and all,
Thanks for raising this import issue. As many of you have pointed out, the Mobility 2030 report is disappointing at best, if not a dangerous attempt to greenwash the industry's expansion into developing countries.
We'd like to develop a critique of the report, and invite any of you to submit points for inclusion. I can compile them and circulate a combined critique to the list for comment and feedback.
Some general points of criticism, to add to what you've all been saying:
- The intended audience and purpose of the report is unclear. After 150 pages of discussing the current status of transport and putting forward its proposed sustainability goals, the report spends less than two pages discussing "how companies like ours can contribute to achieving the goals we have identified." Then, the focus is heavy on tailpipe solutions to emissions problems.
- The report approaches "sustainable mobility" with the assumption that expansion of private car use is inevitable and even desirable. It includes troubling recommendations - including the export of cheap cars to developing countries as a solution to mobility constraints. Public transit, bicycling and walking are barely mentioned.
- The report either avoids taking a stance or comes out against anything that might limit private automobile use, such as congestion pricing and policies to limit urban sprawl.
So, we welcome your comments and contributions, either off-list or on. Please get back to us by Friday, July 30.
Thanks and best,
Lisa Peterson, Communications Director
Institute for Transportation and Development Policy
Behalf Of Eric Bruun
Sent: Thursday, July 08, 2004 11:23 AM
To: Asia and the Pacific sustainable transport; eric.britton@...;
Subject: [sustran] Re: WBCSD & the auto industry - part of the solution, but how?
I think that Lee is on to something. Maybe the main reason for this study
Is to be able to say that, thanks to efforts initiated by this study, the
damage from growing car use will not be as bad as it would have been
I want to raise a few other points which I think are relevant:
1) There is massive overcapacity worldwide in the auto industry. There is
intense pressure to increase car sales. The situation will only get worse,
as China probably plans on trying to export huge numbers of cars and put
some of the higher wage countries out of the business.
2) Why should any developing country be asked to conserve when the US,
which has 4 percent of the world's population, consumes 25 percent of the world's
gasoline? There isn't much hope of persuasion until the US starts to
3) Technology oriented people like to focus on fuel efficiency of vehicles.
But this is roughly half the story. The other half is containing sprawl and
not building auto-dependent communities. The US is such a fuel glutton
because it has both very large vehicles AND weak land use planning.
4) Consuming land to accommodate autos is especially damaging near most of
the great port/transportation hub cities. The reason they were located
there in the first place is because of the superior farm land nearby or up river.
So, low-density development also eliminates some of the world's best
farmland. I give as an example Philadelphia, where I live. There are tens
of thousands of empty lots and abandoned houses in the city proper, while
McMansions are being built on rich farm land in the surrounding Delaware
----- Original Message -----
From: "Lee Schipper" <SCHIPPER@...
To: <eric.britton@...; <WorldTransport@yahoogroups.com
Sent: Wednesday, July 07, 2004 8:17 AM
I was a strong supporter of the idea of the WBCSD, helping informally to
set it up when I was at the IEA and then Shell Int'l. Long conversations
with organizers at both auto and oil companies, potential consultants.
Organized 1 of the expert forums (Mexico City, last year) and
participated in a few others.
I will read the material and report back here -- rumors fly that the
final report is weak -- seems like the fuel companies are very aggressive
about clean fuels, which is the easy part, but the car makers are wont
to say "less cars than otherwise", and that's really what all gazes into
the future are all about. But let me look carefully first.
----- Original Message -----
From: eric.britton@... 7/7/2004 6:30:24 AM
Wednesday, July 07, 2004, Paris, France, Europe
Our old friend and colleague, Ken Orski, formerly the original caretaker of the urban transport environment of the OECD's environment unit years ago when it was just getting started, has just kindly shared with us an abstract of and commentary on the just published report of the WBCSD.
His closing phrase caught my attention, and I would like to invite commentary on it here. He writes:
"While it is too early to predict the report's longer term influence, the sponsoring companies clearly hope that their initiative will, at the very least, help to establish the auto industry's sincerity and
good faith in trying to come to grips with the impact of its activities on the environment."
Now, I for one get no great pleasure in bashing the auto or energy industry - indeed I think it's a pretty dumb and counter-productive thing to do since one way or another they are also part of the solution (indeed they are important clients for my personal consulting work as I keep trying to edge them toward a more truly proactive approach in helping create and advance the New Mobility Agenda - I am not that reassured about either (a) the usefulness or (b) the sincerity and good faith - precisely! - of their participation in this particular exercise.
I have my own thoughts on this as you can imagine, but I would be interested to hear what others of you might have to say. Indeed, isn't the main issue behind this from our shared perspectives here is that we need to make them part of the solution. There can be no doubt about that. The question of course is: will they do it without firm leadership from the public policy end. And if so, what form should
that take? (I attach to this note our short original 'mission statement' for The Commons which goes back now to several decades. Still pretty much the way it looks around here.)
The Commons, Paris
"The Commons: Increasing the uncomfort zone for hesitant administrators and politicians, pioneering new concepts for activists, community groups, entrepreneurs and business, and through our joint efforts, energy and personal choices, placing them and ourselves firmly on the path to a more sustainable and more just society."