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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?

Sustainable mobility: can the world speak with one voice?

Nancy Vandycke's picture

 
The transport sector is changing at breakneck speed.
 
By 2030, global passenger traffic is set to rise by 50%, and freight volume by 70%. By 2050, we will have twice as many vehicles on the road, with most of the increase coming from emerging markets, where steady economic expansion is creating new lifestyle expectations and mobility aspirations. Mega-projects like China’s One Belt, One Road could connect more than half of the world’s population, and roughly a quarter of the goods that move around the globe by land and sea.
 
These transformations create a unique opportunity to improve the lives and livelihoods of billions of people by facilitating access to jobs, markets, and essential services such as healthcare or education.
 
But the growth of the transport sector could also come at the cost of higher fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions, increasing air and noise pollution, a growing number of road fatalities, and worsening inequities in access.
 
Although these are, of course, global challenges, developing countries are disproportionately affected.
 
The vast majority of the one billion people who still don’t have access to an all-weather road live in the developing world. Although low and middle-income countries are home to only 54% of the world’s vehicles, they account for 90% of the 1.25 million road deaths occurring every year. If we don’t take action now, transport emissions from emerging markets could triple by 2050, and would make up 75% of the global total.
 
While the case for sustainable mobility is evident, the sector still lacks coherence and clear objectives. There is a way forward, but it requires pro-active cooperation between all stakeholders.
 
That’s what motivated the creation of Sustainable Mobility for All (SuM4All), a partnership between a wide range of global actors determined to speak with one voice and steer mobility in the right direction.
 
SuM4All partners include Multilateral Development Banks, United Nations Agencies, bilateral organizations, non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations, and is open to other important entities such as national governments and private companies. Together, these organizations can pool their capacity and experience to orient policymaking, turn ideas into action, and mobilize financing.

On the brink - let's act on climate change now

Sameh Mobarek's picture


Imagine for a moment that the most advanced spaceship visited Earth in full view of the planet’s inhabitants.  From this spaceship, a humanoid life form named Klaatu emerges, followed shortly after by a menacingly large robot.  Klaatu’s message to the people of Earth is revealed in one of the climactic exchanges of this story with the protagonist, Helen Benson, a young female scientist that was at the forefront of her field:

Helen Benson: I need to know what’s happening.
Klaatu: This planet is dying. The human race is killing it.
Helen Benson: So you’ve come here to help us.
Klaatu: No, I didn’t.
Helen Benson: You said you came to save us.
Klaatu: I said I came to save the Earth.
Helen Benson: You came to save the Earth… from us. You came to save the Earth from us.
Klaatu: We can’t risk the survival of this planet for the sake of one species.
Helen Benson: What are you saying?
Klaatu: If the Earth dies, you die. If you die, the Earth survives. There are only a handful of planets in the cosmos that are capable of supporting complex life…
Helen Benson: You can’t do this.
Klaatu: …this one can’t be allowed to perish.
Helen Benson: We can change. We can still turn things around.
Klaatu: We’ve watched, we’ve waited and hoped that you would change.
Helen Benson: Please…
Klaatu: It’s reached the tipping point. We have to act.

How many people does it take to change a light bulb?

Ashok Sarkar's picture
What is this? Read on to find out.

Riddle us this. In what country are...
  • 450 million ceiling fans already in use, 40 million new ones sold every year?
  • 350 million fluorescent tube lights already in use, 10 million new sold every year?
  • 30 million air conditioners already in use, three million new sold every year?
If you guessed India, you are right.

With a population of about 1.2 billion, India is one of the largest consumer markets in the world. So it’s no surprise that household appliances account for several gigawatts of electricity usage across the country. As India’s middle class grows and people move from villages to towns and cities, electricity usage is only increasing. In fact, hundreds of millions of electric appliances will be added over the next few decades. This poses a serious challenge for India’s energy security since there already are electricity supply shortages, which often lead to chronic outages and blackouts. The surge in household appliances is also a climate change challenge—India, the world’s third-largest CO2 emitter, is predicted to continue increasing its greenhouse gas emissions at least until 2030.

But India is turning this challenge into an opportunity by tapping into energy efficiency solutions, a relatively new area with already a few major successes. Considered globally as the “first fuel,” energy efficiency is rising to the forefront of India’s quest for innovative solutions to provide 24/7 reliable and affordable electricity for all.

Cool innovation in Thailand: good for business, good for the climate

Viraj Vithoontien's picture
Photo credit: Saijo Denki


With the recent climate agreement in Paris, many countries are looking at improved energy efficiency as a way to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to contribute to the agreed climate goal of keeping global warming below two degrees Celsius.  
 
Innovative air-conditioning (A/C) technology, just launched by a Thai A/C manufacturer in cooperation with the Government of Thailand and the Federation of Thai Industries, will not only save consumers and the country energy, it will eliminate emissions of ozone depleting, high global warming refrigerants with little to no additional costs. At scale, this technology can play an important role in global climate mitigation efforts.

Bringing better biodigesters and clean energy to Africa

Juha Seppala's picture
In developing countries, biodigesters are becoming an incredibly effective solution to convert manure into biogas. Photo: SimGas


Sub-Saharan Africa continues to suffer from a major energy deficit, with hundreds of millions of people lacking access to electricity and clean cooking fuels. There is a great need for innovative mechanisms that can help families access clean and affordable energy. The Carbon Initiative for Development (Ci-Dev) is one such mechanism.  
 
A $125 million fund with a pipeline of 14 pilot projects in Africa, Ci-Dev will help improve living standards and sustainable energy through results-based finance. Along the way, it will generate valuable lessons in how reducing greenhouse gas emissions can generate tangible development benefits for local communities, like cleaner air, improved safety, and financial and time savings.

These lessons can help in the delivery and scale up of innovative climate finance business models.

Food systems are finally on the climate change map. What’s next?

Marc Sadler's picture
 
Climate-smart crops can help feed the world. Dasan Bobo / World Bank

So, food systems are finally on the climate change map and embedded in the language of the Paris Climate Agreement.

This is a long way from the previous involvement of agriculture as a contentious area that was subject to fractious debate and fatally entwined with the discussion around climate-change related loss and damage. A vast majority of national plans to address climate change or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) presented at the COP in Paris contained language and commitments on agriculture – for both adaptation and mitigation measures.

What’s behind this change in sentiment and action?

Morocco raises stakes on combating climate change

Sameh Mobarek's picture
 
View over Ouarzazate city, Morocco. (Photo via ThinkStock)

While responsible for only a small share of global emissions, the country is taking big steps to curb them.

In the next few weeks, Morocco is preparing to commission the first phase of what will be the largest concentrated solar power plant of its kind in the world. The 510 MW Noor-Ouarzazate Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) complex was first conceived as part of the Moroccan Solar Plan (MSP) adopted in 2009 to significantly shift the country’s energy policy and climate change agenda, which is particularly relevant with the climate conference (COP21) happening in Paris. 

This is no small featcurrently, Morocco depends on fossil fuel imports for over 97 percent of its domestic power needs, making it particularly susceptible to regional conditions and volatility in oil prices.

The country is determined to change that, with plans to boost the amount of electricity it generates from renewable sources to 42 percent of its total capacity by 2020. This entails developing and commissioning at least 2,000 MW of solar and 2,000 MW of wind capacity in a relatively short timeframe. 

The Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN) was established to implement MSP’s solar targets in conjunction with the Office National de l’Electricité et de l’Eau Potable (ONEE), Morocco’s national electricity and water utility.  Noor-Ouarzazate is the first of a series that MASEN expects to commission by 2020 to achieve its renewable energy target.

Covering more ground: 18 countries and the work to conserve forests

Ellysar Baroudy's picture
Participants at the 13th FCPF Carbon Fund meeting in Brussels, Belgium
Credits: FCPF Carbon Fund


With all eyes on Paris climate meetings in December, we are at a critical moment to show that our efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation are moving from concept to reality.

The World Bank's Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, a 47-country collaboration, focuses on reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation, also known as REDD+; the Carbon Fund supports countries that have made progress on REDD+ readiness through performance-based payments for emission reductions.

Making forest commitments a reality

Ellysar Baroudy's picture
​Farmers in Zambia's Luangwa Valley discuss sustainable agriculture


​New York this week plays host to Climate Week 2015, where business and government leaders are convening to make pledges and commit to actions to demonstrate that development does not have to come at the expense of the environment. 

One year ago this event was a forum for the New York Declaration on Forests, a public-private compact to end natural forest loss by 2030. 
Now one year on, the World Bank Group remains an active partner working with countries and companies to help turn forestry commitments into actions on the ground. 


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