|GP/SP: Belarus commits to improving the environmental performance of transport|
Belarus has committed to implementing the recommendations of the UNECE’s third review of the country’s environmental performance, including those on transport1. The commitments on transport were included as one of Belarus’s actions to be implemented under the Batumi Initiative on the Green Economy (BIG-E), which was adopted at the Eight Ministerial Conference on Environment for Europe that was held in the Georgian city of Batumi in June 20162.
The section of the UNECE’s review on the environmental performance of Belarus’ transport sector acknowledged that the country had taken steps in the right direction. The absolute and relative contribution of the transport sector to air pollution has begun to decline, in spite of an increasing numbers of vehicles. This has been largely due to the stringent vehicle and fuel standards that have been applied in the country, which are now equivalent to the EU’s Euro 5 standard for diesel cars. The emission of greenhouse gases from the country’s transport has also declined significantly from 1990, as a result of inter alia increases in the price of motor fuels and decreases in purchasing power. While Belarus has invested in electrifying public transport in its main cities, this has not yet translated to an increase in use, with the notable exception of the country’s only metro system in the capital Minsk3.
There is a national strategy for reducing the adverse impacts of transport on air quality, which contains actions and targets for 2020. This includes targets for reducing air pollutants from transport in relative and absolute terms, a target to increase the modal share of clean and electrified public transport to 50% in large towns and cities and to increase the share of cleaner vehicles in the fleet, i.e. those meeting the K4/Euro 4 standard or above, to 50% by 2020. There is also a target to reduce the emission of air pollutants from Belarusian Railways through the renewal and modernisation of the vehicle stock and the electrification of railway lines2,3.
This strategy envisages the deployment of intelligent transport systems (ITS) in major cities, along with better planning, the increased modernisation of vehicles and the use of high quality fuels. These build on existing measures, although the rate of fleet renewal has decreased in recent years, while ITS has not been deployed much outside of Minsk. A modal shift to the more environmentally-friendly modes of transport, for both freight and passenger transport, is also envisaged. The gradual implementation of the ‘polluter pays principle’ is also foreseen through differentials in custom duties for less and more polluting vehicles. Within Minsk, there is also an emphasis on supporting, and developing infrastructure to encourage, cycling2,3.
In response to its analysis, UNECE recommended that Belarus should inter alia put its public transport operations on a more solid financial footing, while prioritising selected investments, introducing economic incentives to speed up the renewal of the country’s vehicle fleet and ensuring the further deployment of ITS throughout the country in order to improve traffic management and mitigate transport’s negative externalities2,3. Belarus’s Deputy Prime Minister approved an Action Plan to implement these and the UNECE’s other recommendations in January 20161.
3. UNECE (2016) ‘Environmental Performance Reviews – Belarus, Third Review’, Environmental Performance Reviews Series No. 44, ECE/CEP/178, United Nations, New York and Geneva