Climate-smart transport is a key piece of the sustainable development puzzle

When it comes to climate change, the transport sector is both a vicmo-rabat-tram-lukakikina-shutterstocktim and a perpetrator. On the one hand, transport infrastructure is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change such as higher temperatures, increased precipitations, and flooding. At the same time, transport is responsible for 23% of energy-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and is one of the sectors where emissions are rising the fastest. This statistic alone makes it pretty clear that there will be no significant progress on climate action without greener, more sustainable mobility.

Yet, before COP21, the transport sector was conspicuously absent from climate talks. The strong, structured presence we saw last year in Paris and this year in Marrakech is finally commensurate with the urgency needed to address the transport-related issues on the climate agenda.

The rising importance of transport in the global conversation is reflected in major commitments like the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement. As an example, over 70% of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) that countries have proposed to implement the Paris Agreement include transport commitments, ranging from increasing public transport in cities to shifting freight from roads to railways and waterways.

At the national level, more and more countries are now pro-actively seeking opportunities to move toward cleaner and smarter mobility. As host of this year’s COP, Morocco is leading by example through initiatives like the forthcoming Association for Sustainable Road Transport, as well as a number of climate-friendly public transport projects. Further south, Mozambique is looking into a variety of scenarios to move people and freight more efficiently, while keeping transport-related emissions in check. In India, transport will play a key part in decoupling economic growth from carbon emissions and meeting the country’s NDCs. More specifically, the government intends to promote climate-smart transport through three major shifts: private to public transport in cities; roads to rail and waterways for freight; and fossil to non-fossil fuels.

At the World Bank, we are working to help our clients fulfil these commitments, with a focus on three major areas:

    • Climate-resilient transport: Climate change puts growth potential, as well as trillions of dollars of transport investments at risk, which is why resilience—and especially, road resilience—is a key part of our agenda. This is particularly important in Sub-Saharan Africa, where the asset value of the road network exceeds 30% of the region’s GDP. A report we launched at COP22 shows that improved road maintenance is a central tool for boosting road resilience in the region. Building on appropriate maintenance, a number of strategies for building resilience in road systems are emerging; from increasing the robustness of particular vulnerable segments; building system resilience by increasing redundancy; by system wide efforts to address standards, methods and materials; and by improving effectiveness of preparation for and response to extreme climate events. We are currently working with partners in more than 40 countries globally to build resilience into transport systems using such strategies.

 

 

  • Efficient & Multi-modal transport systems: Efficient freight systems, particularly fuller and better trucks, can deliver both on lower costs and a lower carbon footprint. Moreover, to maximize the benefits of transport investments, it is important to make sure that different modes complement each other, and to allow people and goods to transfer seamlessly between different means of transport. That’s why we’re helping governments integrate roads, railways and waterways into comprehensive, multi-modal transport systems. A prominent example is a waterways project around Lake Victoria, which integrates new terminals that enable connection with road and rail networks.

To keep the momentum going, we now need to articulate a clear, coherent vision for sustainable mobility, matched with adequate climate financing. To that end, the World Bank is supporting Sustainable Mobility for All (SM4A), a coordination mechanism that will help both public and private players in the transport sector get organized around a common platform. With SM4A, the transport community will speak with one comprehensive and cohesive voice, and will be able to help governments integrate climate considerations into their transport plans more effectively.

But what exactly is the driving force behind these initiatives? Ultimately, it’s not just about reducing the carbon footprint of transport or protecting the sector against the effects of climate change. By boosting economic growth and expanding access to jobs and services, investment in climate-smart transport has the potential to become a true development win-win that positively impacts all aspects of sustainability: environmental, of course, but also social and economic. This is exactly the kind of co-benefits we need to pursue if we are serious about building a greener, inclusive, and prosperous future.

WBG Blog

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