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fuel efficiency

Motorization and its discontents

Roger Gorham's picture
Photo: Sarah Farat/World Bank
They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  While visiting the World Bank library the other day, I was struck by how many development publications featured pictures of motor vehicles on their covers, even though most of them covered topics that had little to do with transport.  The setting and tone of the pictures varied – sometimes they showed a lone car on a rural highway, sometimes congested vehicles in urban traffic, and sometimes a car displayed proudly as a status symbol – but the prevalence of motorized vehicles as a visual metaphor for development was unmistakable to me: in the public imagination, consciously or otherwise, many people associate development with more use of motorized vehicles.

Indeed, motorization – the process of adopting and using motor vehicles as a core part of economic and daily life – is closely linked with other dimensions of development such as urbanization and industrialization.

Motorization, however, is a double-edged sword.

For many households, being able to afford their own vehicle is often perceived as the key to accessing more jobs, more services, more opportunities—not to mention a status symbol. Likewise, vehicles can unlock possibilities for firms and individual entrepreneurs such as the young man from Uganda pictured on the right, proudly showing off his brand new boda boda (motorcycle taxi). 

But motorization also comes with a serious downside, in terms of challenges that many governments have difficulty managing.  Motor vehicles can undermine the livability of cities by cluttering up roads and open spaces—the scene of chaos and gridlock in the picture below, from Accra, is a telling example. In addition, vehicles create significant safety hazards for occupants and bystanders alike… in many developing countries, road deaths have effectively reached epidemic proportions. From an environmental standpoint, motorized transport is, of course, a major contributor to urban air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Lastly, motorization contributes to countries' hard currency challenges by exacerbating their long-term demand for petroleum products.

Given these challenges, how are developing countries going to align their motorization trajectories with their development goals?  What should the World Bank advise our clients about how to manage this process?

Habitat III will shape the future of cities. What will it mean for urban mobility?

Nancy Vandycke's picture
Photo credit: Rajarshi Mitra/Flickr

Next week, the international community will gather at Habitat III - the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development - to discuss important urban challenges as the world’s cities grow at an unprecedented rate.

Today, 54% of people live in cities and towns. Cities can be magnets for population growth and offer opportunities for jobs and social empowerment; but they can also be a source of congestion, exclusion and impoverishment. Which path of urban growth will prevail depends, in large part, on the quality and availability of mobility solutions. Transport is a structuring element of cities.

The reality of mobility in today’s cities is alarming— especially when measured against the four criteria that define sustainable mobility.

Can we accelerate energy efficiency by using less fuel?

Marc Juhel's picture
Many of us drive cars on a regular basis, particularly in developed countries, but perhaps rarely think about how we could reduce the impact of our driving on the environment.  In other words, what are some of the policies and specific actions that could facilitate greater improvements in energy efficiency in the vehicles sector?

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. 

Now that you’ve built it, why won’t they come?

Holly Krambeck's picture

If the proven, certified technology is cheap, makes companies more profitable, and at the same time, more green, then why doesn’t every company use it?

 

This is the mystery that our team now faces in Guangdong Province, China, where we are leveraging a multi-million dollar grant from the Global Environment Facility to support the retrofitting of freight trucks with Smartway (and similarly) verified Green Freight technologies*. These technologies improve the fuel efficiency of trucks, and their costs are recovered through fuel savings – in some cases, in as little as six months.   So, the pervasive question – if they are so cost-effective and improve the competitiveness of businesses, why aren’t these technologies used…everywhere?

 

It is an interesting question, because its answer points us to the broader issue of  market barriers in developing countries. How do we identify these barriers, and what is that "spark" that sets market forces in motion?