How to address the climate change challenge in transport projects?

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ImageOne example discussed in a recent event held at World Bank offices in Washington DC concerned an innovative technology solution in the aviation sector, which could reduce global CO2 emissions by 14 million tons!

Most of us agree that climate change is one of the greatest challenges that needed to be addressed. The transport sector accounts globally for about one third of greenhouse gas emissions, and the number is steadily rising with economic development. Experts agree that the main objective must be the reduction of green house gas emissions. However, at the same time we don’t want to hamper or reduce economic development, one of the key pillars for poverty reduction.

The low hanging fruit in the transport sector is improving energy efficiency or, to put it in simple terms, travel farther with less energy consumed. The air transport sector, which accounts for about 2% of global green house gas emissions, has made significant progress by reducing fuel consumption of jet engines by 70% since the introduction of the modern jet aircraft. However, there are still some domains in aviation, which can be addressed to further improve energy efficiency.

ImageOne of the most promising measures is improving air traffic control in order to optimize routing and air traffic procedures. However, this is only possible by improving air traffic surveillance, especially in developing and emerging markets where most for the airspace is not positively controlled by radar. Radar is expensive, both in installation and operations (a new radar site typically cost US$ 20 – 30 million with an annual operational cost of at least US$ 1 million). As a result, many emerging countries are still only controlled by "procedural air traffic control", which is inefficient and less accurate as aircraft need to follow fixed air routes that nearly never represent the optimal and shortest distance between origin and destination.

A new air traffic surveillance and communication technology, called Automatic Dependence Surveillance System Broadcast (ADS-B), is currently rolled out in the US and other parts of the world. At about 10% of the cost of radar installations, this technology represents a great opportunity for developing countries to leapfrog directly into new air traffic surveillance systems, which will address both, air transport safety and efficiency resulting in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

ImageAn Air Transport Brown Bag Luncheon was held on May 11, 2011 at the World Bank on the topic of ADS-B technology for air traffic control. Skip Nelson from ADS-B Technologies outlined this innovative approach in a presentation called “Over-the-Horizon ADS-B for Global Air Traffic Control”. He discussed some recent ADS-B installations in China, the experiences of the US FAA in Alaska, and developments of ADS-B on the long-haul oceanic routes that will greatly improve efficiency. It became clear that this represents a great example of applying new technology (= innovation) to address a global challenge (climate change) in the transport sector. Especially developing countries would benefit the most (going from no surveillance to the newest technology), as these innovative technologies provide very accurate surveillance capability at a fraction of the cost of traditional radar systems (compare it with the introduction of cell phones, substituting land lines).

The Bank is currently preparing a few air transport infrastructure projects with components for the introduction of ADS-B in Tonga, Tanzania and several other countries. Stay tuned for more innovation in the transport sector!

For further information about ADS-B Technologies, please go to:


Charles E. Schlumberger

Lead Air Transport Specialist

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