Questions like these were at the center of discussions at the Fuel Economy Accelerator Symposium held in Paris last week. The event, organized by the Global Fuel Economy Initiative (GFEI), was hosted by the French Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy. I represented the World Bank at this event, which took place on the heels of the UN Secretary General’s upcoming Climate Conference in New York, scheduled for late September. As a result, the topic of the fuel economy and energy efficiency is especially timely and relevant.
Doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030 is one of the three major objectives of Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL), an initiative led by the UN Secretary-General and the President of the World Bank Group. The other two goals by 2030 are to provide universal access to electricity and modern cooking solutions, and to double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.
Increasing numbers of citizens all over the world are demanding that urban planners and political authorities in their cities “get it right” when designing public urban spaces. People living in cities, both in developed and developing countries are reclaiming streets as public spaces, demanding urban planners to re-design streets to ensure a more equitable distribution of these public spaces, and prioritizing the allocation of streets for people to walk, cycle and socialize. This was the central topic discussed last week at the “Future of Places” conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
How do we contribute to a more equitable society by building more equitable cities? In an increasingly urbanized world, urban mobility is central to citizens’ social and economic wellbeing. However, current urban transportation systems – based primarily on the movement of private motorized vehicles – have prioritized road space and operational design of streets for automobiles over other modes of transport, which has caused many social, environmental and economic consequences, therefore reducing urban livability and equitable access.
The values of urbanity and mobility are being rethought all over the world, and Latin American cities are no exception to this questioning of how cities are to be developed today. One of the answers to sustainability issues lies in the concept of proximity, which combines different dimensions of the urban proposals that the 21st century requires. These dimensions include public health – particularly the fight against sedentary habits – as well as density, compactness, closeness, resilience, and livability of the public space. These all point to a new urban paradigm that all creative cities wish to adopt in order to attract the knowledge economy and guarantee social cohesion.
A dangerously warming planet is not just an environmental challenge – it is a fundamental threat to efforts to end poverty, and it threatens to put prosperity out of the reach of millions of people. Read the recent Fifth Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change if you need further evidence.
If we agree it is an economic problem, what do we do about it? There is general agreement among economists that a robust price on carbon is a key part of effective strategies to avert dangerous climate change. A strong price signal directs finance away from fossil fuels and toward a suite of cleaner, more efficient alternatives.
This logic is not lost on governments and companies. Momentum is building around the globe to put a price on carbon. Consider these facts:
While public-private partnership (PPP) transport investment has been initially driven by countries (such as Poland, Croatia and Hungary) that implemented reforms to join the EU, most of them have not been able to close on transport PPP transactions in the past five years. Now Russia and Turkey are the leaders in the region, as explained below.
What can explain this situation?
A focus on off-balance sheet accounting of PPP projects has dominated transport PPP in EU-member ECA countries in recent years. Off-balance sheet accounting means PPP projects are structured in a way that only annual government payments are accounted for, instead of the total commitment (the assets and liabilities associated with the project). This means that PPP projects end up being large and greenfield (multi-billion dollar investment, typically in new highways), and tend to follow a separate path than for budget-financed projects, based on the assumption that the associated liabilities won’t be accounted for.
Risk allocation between the public and private sectors is driven by accounting treatment. This also results in limited support from governments and very rigid negotiations. It also means that projects are often not able to close or, as a former Minister of Transport said, “We do PPP to build off-balance sheet assets but, in order to reach financial close, assets has to be on our books.”
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Corruption 'impoverishes and kills millions'
An estimated $1tn (£600bn) a year is being taken out of poor countries and millions of lives are lost because of corruption, according to campaigners. A report by the anti-poverty organisation One says much of the progress made over the past two decades in tackling extreme poverty has been put at risk by corruption and crime. Corrupt activities include the use of phantom firms and money laundering. The report blames corruption for 3.6 million deaths every year. If action were taken to end secrecy that allows corruption to thrive - and if the recovered revenues were invested in health - the group calculates that many deaths could be prevented in low-income countries.
The Best and Worst Places to Build More Roads
Roads are taking over the planet. By the middle of this century, so many new roadways are expected to appear that their combined length would circle Earth more than 600 times. To build critical connections while preserving biodiversity, we need a global road map, scientists argue today in the journal Nature. And as a first step, the international team has identified areas where new roads would be most useful and those where such development would likely be in conflict with nature.
Things are looking up in Haiti as the country continues to rebuild from the devastating 2010 earthquake. And part of this progress is a story of trade.
The Haitian government recognizes this, and is working with the World Bank Group and other donors to identify and remove barriers to trade to better promote export growth.
A World Bank team traveled to Port au Prince earlier this month for a week long workshop with the main stakeholders (public and private) intervening on trade logistic in the country, including the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, in order to discuss ways to strengthen the Haitian Trade Facilitation (TF) program. The program is funded through the Trade Facilitation Facility, a multi-donor trust fund dedicated specifically to helping developing countries realize economic development and poverty reduction through trade.
On Sunday in Apia, the capital of Samoa, I saw the results of the World Bank Group’s work with coastal communities that were devastated by the 2009 tsunami and by Cyclone Evan in 2012. Working with the Samoan government and partners, we built coastal roads and a new system of access roads that leads into the hills away from the seashore. Many families rebuilt their homes in the hills, and the new road system helps bind those new households together as well as providing safe escape routes should a tsunami or major storm hit the coast again.
The hard infrastructure construction is interesting; the community conversations about next steps for protecting the coastlines are even more so. The government is launching a series of community consultations that will bring together village mayors, women leaders, government agencies, and NGOs to decide how best to climate-proof their coastlines. The communities are set to decide if sea walls or mangrove plantations will best protect their land and livelihood.
I’m in Apia with a team from across the IFC and the World Bank to represent the World Bank Group at the 3rd UN Conference for Small Island Developing States and took the opportunity to learn more about climate and disaster risk management at the community level.
For island nations, the small size of their land and their economies comes with a set of unique vulnerabilities that makes climate change a major determinant of their ability to thrive and in some cases even survive.
Personal security on and around Mexico City’s public transport system is a serious problem that frames the travel experience for many, particularly for women. A recent report by the Mexico City Women’s Institute showed that 65% of women using the system have suffered some form of sexual assault while on the system or when accessing it. However, there is little argument that only a fraction of these events are reported… which leads us to believe that the actual percentage could be much higher.
Last month, it was time for the project's third phase: a competition to surface new ideas for mass transit options, road safety and mobility information. This event, called the MueveTT Innovation Challenge, brought together 14 teams of people to brainstorm ways for the government, companies, universities, organizations, citizens, and others to work together toward the vision of smart cities.