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Traffic jams, pollution, road crashes: Can technology end the woes of urban transport?

Shomik Mehndiratta's picture
Photo: Noeltock/Flickr
Will technology be the savior of urban mobility?
 
Urbanization and rising incomes have been driving rapid motorization across Asia, Africa, and Latin America. While cities are currently home to 50% of the global population, that proportion is expected to increase to 70% by 2050. At the same time, business-as-usual trends suggest we could see an additional 1 billon cars by 2050, most of which will have to squeeze into the already crowded streets of Indian, Chinese, and African cities.
 
If no action is taken, these cars threaten literally to choke tomorrow’s cities, bringing with them a host of negative consequences that would seriously undermine the overall benefits of urbanization: lowered productivity from constant congestion; local pollution and rising carbon emissions; road traffic deaths and injuries; rising inequity and social division.
 
However, after a century of relatively small incremental progress, disruptive changes in the world of automotive technology could have fundamental implications for sustainability.
 
What are these megatrends, and how can they reshape the future of urban mobility?

Getting a global initiative off the ground: What can transport learn from energy?

Nancy Vandycke's picture

In May last year, key stakeholders joined the World Bank Group in calling for global and more concerted action to address the climate impact of transport while ensuring mobility for everyone. More recently, the Secretary-General’s High-Level Advisory Group on Sustainable Transport noted, in its final recommendations to Ban Ki-Moon, emphasized the need for “coalitions or partnership networks” to “strengthen coherence” for scaling up sustainable transport, as well as establishing monitoring and evaluation frameworks. These issues have been raised at Habitat III, COP22 and at the Global Sustainable Transport Conference in Ashgabat.
 
As the global community readies itself to move from commitments to implementation, what can transport learn from similar initiatives in other sectors, such as Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All)?

Transforming Transportation: Toward Sustainable Mobility for All

Jose Luis Irigoyen's picture


To learn more about the future of sustainable mobility, don't miss Transforming Transportation 2017 on January 12-13. Click here to watch the event live and submit your questions to our experts.

 
From taxi apps to car sharing, from buses to the metro, from bike sharing to walking, not to mention personal cars, there are more transportation choices than ever before for that staple of modern life: the daily commute. The same goes for the transport of goods, which can get from A to B by road, air, rail, waterways and soon drones. There are currently more than 12,600 km (nearly 8000 miles) of metro or urban rail and 5,400 km (3,300 miles) of bus rapid transit (BRT), collectively providing 154 million trips a day in 250 cities. Increased access to transport and enhanced connectivity decreases travel time and generates higher rates of direct employment, keys to elevating overall economic opportunity. 

That’s the good news. The bad news is that the increase in mobility options comes at a high price. The challenges associated with growing traffic, especially in cities, are significant and threaten to become insurmountable. And despite the wide range of ways to get around, there have never been so many people who lack access to transportation or the means to use transportation.

Follow the moving carbon: A strategy to mitigate emissions from transport

Shomik Mehndiratta's picture


To learn more about the future of sustainable mobility, don't miss Transforming Transportation 2017 on January 12-13. Click here to watch the event live and submit your questions to our experts.

 
Transport currently accounts for 23% of energy-related carbon emissions--equivalent to 7.3 gigatons of CO2 globally in 2013—and, unfortunately, ranks among the fastest growing sources of such emissions.

If we’re serious about bucking the trend and reducing the environmental footprint of the sector, we first need to understand where transport emissions come from, and how they will evolve. If you take out the 1 GT of CO2 emissions released by the aviation and maritime industry for international transport, about 6 GT of transport emissions are classified as “domestically generated.” Today, the share of domestically generated emissions is split pretty much evenly between developed and developing countries: high-income OECD countries account for about 3 GT, while non-OECD countries are responsible for another 3 GT.

However, under a business-as-usual scenario, this breakdown is expected to change dramatically. Without bold action to make transport greener, emissions from emerging markets are poised to grow threefold by 2050, and would then make some 75% of the global total. Domestically generated emissions from OECD countries, in comparison, should rise by a more modest 17%.

The share of each mode in overall transport emissions also differs depending on which part of the world you’re looking at: while 2/3 of emissions in OECD countries are from cars, freight and particularly trucking is currently more important in the context of emerging markets.  Trucks actually generate over 40% of transport emissions in China, India Latin America and Africa.

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

Jose Luis Irigoyen's picture

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The modern tramway system in Rabat Salé, Morocco. Photo: LukaKikina/Shutterstock
When it comes to climate change, the transport sector is both a victim 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.

First-ever Global Conference on Sustainable Transport: What is at stake?

Nancy Vandycke's picture

On November 26, 2016, UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon will convene the first-ever Global Conference on Sustainable Transport, in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. What is at stake in this capstone two-day event? What fresh developments might it yield, and how might it change the dynamics for transport?
 
The new transport agenda. A number of earlier high-level events—including the UN Climate Action Summit, the OECD/International Transport Forum, and the Habitat III Conference—helped give a long-needed boost to the visibility of transport in the international arena in 2016. The events also helped position transport within the current set of global commitments that include the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris climate agreement, the Decade of Action on Road Safety, and the Habitat III New Urban Agenda. The forthcoming Ashgabat event will put front and center one simple notion: for the next 15 years, the transport agenda will be framed by that set of global commitments. The commitments define the space within which governments, international organizations, the private sector, and civil society will have to act on transport. And they will dictate the future size and direction of transport funding.
 
This is a paradigm shift. Previously, the transport agenda was defined by the goal of providing access to transport infrastructure. Under the new framework, the international community has committed itself to much more. First, the issue is no longer simply access but equitable access for all. Second, other, equally important objectives have been added, including the efficiency and reliability of mobility services, transport safety, and decarbonization. In sum, the internationally accepted transport agenda concerns more than economic and social development; it is also about being part of the climate change solution.

Aviation deal: A step toward carbon neutrality

John Roome's picture
In five years from now, your trip across the ocean could look very different from today. While you will probably not notice it, the aircraft you board will boast green technologies from wing tips to landing gear. It will fly on the most direct and fuel-efficient route, use more biofuels, and the airline will purchase carbon credits to compensate for the carbon emissions generated by your trip. In fact, starting in 2021, countries are pledging that growth from the aviation sector will be carbon neutral, capped at 2020 emission levels.
 
Greenhouse gas emissions from the aviation sector currently represent 2% of worldwide emissions – making aviation the world’s seventh largest emitter - a number anticipated to rise exponentially in the coming decades as more and more people choose to fly to their destinations. Today, an aircraft with 300 passengers traveling from Paris to New York emits approximately 100 tons of carbon dioxide, or as much as emissions from 22 cars in a year. And because the emissions happen higher up in the atmosphere, the impact on global warming is greater than emissions on the ground.
 
Earlier this month, 191 countries belonging to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) adopted an agreement to stop future emissions from rising above 2020 levels. This is the latest measure by the industry aimed at curbing emissions, a step in the right direction given that air traffic is expected to double by 2030.

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.

Four things not to miss in shaping the new Global Action Agenda for Transport

Nancy Vandycke's picture

At the recent Climate Action 2016 Summit, several key stakeholders joined the World Bank Group in a call for global and more concerted action to address the climate impact of transport, while ensuring mobility for everyone. In a month from now, the High-Level Advisory Group on Sustainable Transport, which was established by the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon for three years, will release its conclusions on what actions are needed to support “more sustainable transport systems”. This will lay the ground for the first UN Global Conference on Sustainable Transportation on November 26-27, 2016, in Ashgabat. As the HLAP is finalizing its report, here are four things that the new Global Action Agenda should not miss.

Sustainable Mobility, the new imperative

Pierre Guislain's picture
Sao Paulo Metro, financed by the World Bank Group
Photo: Andsystem

Mobility is at the heart of everything we do – education, jobs, health, trade, social and cultural engagements. But mobility is facing critical challenges that need to be confronted urgently if we are to tackle climate change: over one billion more people on our planet by 2030, with greater needs for mobility; the expected doubling of the number of vehicles on the road by 2050; greenhouse gas emissions that represent almost a quarter of total energy-related emissions, and rising under a business as usual scenario; and the additional challenge of connecting one billion people who still lack access to all-weather roads and efficient transport services.

It is clear that countries’ mobility choices today will either lock us into unsustainable scenarios or will open the way for new possibilities.

On April 22 2016, 175 government leaders signed the historic Paris climate agreement, calling for ambitious and urgent action to implement  global climate change commitments. On May 5-6 in Washington DC, representatives from government, private sector, civil society, academia and multilateral development banks will gather for the Climate Action 2016 Summit. With more than 70% of countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) mentioning transport, the sector is one of the focus area of this summit.
 
A framework for Sustainable Mobility
As coordinator of the summit’s transport track, the World Bank is organizing on May 4th a pre-Summit Transport day in collaboration with the World Resource Institute, the Paris Process on Mobility and Climate (PPMC) and the Michelin Bibendum Challenge. The pre-Summit event will focus on the bold actions that are needed not only to decarbonize transport, but also to make it accessible to all, to improve its efficiency, and to ensure its safety.

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