Sustainable Mobility, the new imperative

This page in:
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.

As these four goals are embedded in the Paris Agreement and in the Sustainable Development Goals, we need to tackle them together and talk not just about green transport but about the broader concept of ‘sustainable mobility’. With this conversation, we hope to move from a range of diverse initiatives and commitments to framing a common vision and approach to contribute to these four goals.
The four goals
The four goals are already at the heart of many national, international public and even private initiatives.

1) Accessibility: SDG 9 calls for equitable access for all to infrastructure. By investing in public transport projects, such as bus rapid transit, metro and railways, and in rural roads, we can help increase access to transport, especially for the bottom 40 percent of the population. In the São Paulo Metropolitan Region of Brazil, for example, 150,000 low-income families now have access to an additional 2.5 million jobs thanks to projects that expanded urban mobility, including the Sao Paulo Metro, financed by the World Bank Group. So what will it take to substantially increase investments in public transport?  

2) Efficiency: Seventy percent of fuel energy is lost in engine and driveline inefficiencies. We need efficient mobility solutions that minimize use of energy, and address passenger and freight transport needs with market-oriented services.  The World Bank is helping cities, like Kolkata, develop strategies for better integrating various transport modes by maximizing accessibility while minimizing the carbon footprint of both passenger and freight transport. But how do we bring this to scale?

3) Safety: Much work remains to achieve the goals of the UN Decade of Action on Road Safety (2011-2020), which aims to halve deaths and injuries from road traffic crashes and save 5 million lives by 2020. Our interventions, under the multi-donor Global Road Safety Facility, provide countries with technical assistance and advisory services to help them make their roads safe. But this is still a drop in the ocean. How do we massively scale up such interventions?  

4) Climate responsiveness: Multilateral Development Banks pledged in Paris to substantially increase their investments in low-carbon transport. But, in the end, transport is to a great extent a personal choice. What will it take for people to leave their car behind and choose low-carbon options such as walkways, biking and public transport?
Bold actions
Transforming the world’s mobility requires a robust global vision that integrates bold actions driven by coalitions of public and private sector leaders who can galvanize momentum towards sustainable mobility.
This week’s Climate Action Summit and the preceding Transport workday are an important stop in a long journey involving many stakeholders towards sustainable mobility for all.
This is our new imperative. And there is no better time than now to move from global commitments into tangible actions.


Pierre Guislain

Senior Director, Transport and ICT, World Bank

Join the Conversation

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly
Remaining characters: 1000