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climate-smart transport

The road to recovery: Rebuilding the transport sector after a disaster

Melody Benavidez's picture
Transport and disaster recovery

In the Paradise, California fires of November 2018, a range of factors coalesced leaving 86 people dead and over 13,900 homes destroyed. Fueling the fires were gale-force winds that when combined with the area’s institutional and infrastructural challenges led to one of the deadliest fires in California history.

When Paradise was developed, the road network was built to maximize buildable space for homes. However, as the Paradise fires demonstrated, in the event of a large-scale disaster, the road network inhibited community-wide evacuation. Paradise featured nearly 100 miles of private roads that dead-ended on narrow overlooks with few connector streets. As wind rapidly accelerated the fire throughout the community, residents trying to flee found themselves on roads paralyzed by traffic for hours on end. Evacuation routes turned into fire traps. Local officials went on to say that the miracle of the tragedy was how many people escaped.

The Paradise example demonstrates the importance of transport networks for allowing swift evacuation during the response phase, and also hints at how important effective recovery of the transport network will be in Paradise, California. In the aftermath of any significant disaster event, it is the roads, railways and ports that underpin the restoration of economic activity and the reconstruction of critical infrastructure after a disaster. In the aftermath of devastating floods, earthquakes, landslides, or typhoons, roads may be rendered unusable, making it more expensive to transport goods and services as well as preventing people from earning income. As such, having multiple ways to get from point A to point B, by modality and by route, is critical to continued connectivity. The recovery phase can be the impetus to reexamine vulnerable links in the transport network and address those deficiencies to help reduce future risks and strengthen the economic and physical resilience of people and infrastructure assets.

Africa is paving the way to a climate-resilient future

Tara Shirvani's picture


Since the presentation of the World Bank’s first Africa Climate Business Plan at the COP 21 in Paris in 2015 and the Transport Chapter in Marrakech in 2016, a lot of progress has been made on integrating climate adaptation and mitigation into our transport projects.

The World Bank initially committed about $3.2 billion toward mainstreaming climate action into transport programs in Sub-Saharan Africa in the form of infrastructure investments and technical assistance. Following the Paris Agreement, and building on African countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), the size of this portfolio grew to $5 billion for 2016 to 2020.  In 2017, the institution added another $1.9 billion to that amount, bringing the total to $6.9 billion in projects with climate co-benefits— more than twice the size of the original portfolio. These investments will help improve the resilience of transport infrastructure to climate change and improve the carbon footprint of transport systems.
 
Climate change has already started to affect African countries’ efforts to provide better transport services to their citizens.  African transport systems are vulnerable to multiple types of climate impact: sea level rise and storm surge, higher frequency and intensity of extreme wind and storm events, increased precipitation intensity, extreme heat and fire hazard, overall warming, and change in average precipitation patterns. The increased frequency and intensity of extreme climate event challenges the year-round availability of critical transport services: roads are damaged more often or are more costly to maintain; expensive infrastructure assets such as ports, railways or airports can be damaged by storms and storm surges, resulting in a short  life cycle and capacity than they were originally designed for. Critical infrastructure such as bridges continue to be built based on data and disaster risk patterns from decades ago, ignoring the current trend of increased climate risk. For Sub-Saharan Africa alone, it is estimated that climate change will threaten to increase road maintenance costs by 270% if no action is taken.

Resilient transport investments: a climate imperative for Small Island Developing Countries

Franz Drees-Gross's picture
This blog post was co-authored by Franz Drees-Gross, Director, Transport and ICT Global Practice, and Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez, Senior Director, Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice.



Transport in its many forms – from tuk-tuks in Thailand to futuristic self-driving electric cars – is ubiquitous in the lives of everyone on the planet. For that reason, it is often taken for granted – unless we are caught in congestion, or more dramatically, if the water truck fails to arrive at a drought-stricken community in Africa.

It is easy to forget that transport is a crucial part of the global economy. Overall, countries invest between $1.4 to $2.1 trillion per year in transport infrastructure to meet the world’s demand for mobility and connectivity. Efficient transport systems move goods and services, connect people to economic opportunities, and enable access to essential services like healthcare and education. Transport is a fundamental enabler to achieving almost all the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and is crucial to meet the objectives under the Paris agreement of limiting global warming to less than 2°C by 2100, and make best efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C.

But all of this depends on well-functioning transport systems. With the effects of climate change, in many countries this assumption is becoming less of a given. The impact of extreme natural events on transport—itself a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions—often serve as an abrupt reminder of how central it is, both for urgent response needs such as evacuating people and getting emergency services where they are needed, but also for longer term economic recovery, often impaired by destroyed infrastructure and lost livelihoods. A country that loses its transport infrastructure cannot respond effectively to climate change impacts.