Washington, D.C, 20 November 2023 (TDI): Decarbonizing urban transport for development is a critical imperative, as the demand for passenger transport is projected to surge by nearly 75% by 2050.
To address this challenge, cities worldwide urgently need to establish the foundations of efficient and sustainable urban transport systems.
According to a comprehensive World Bank report on this matter, the current scenario is alarming, with cities responsible for over 70% of global carbon dioxide emissions, primarily attributed to private cars running on fossil fuels.
The report, aptly titled “Decarbonizing Urban Transport for Development,” not only identifies the problem but also provides practical guidance on how cities can transform their urban transport systems to be more environmentally friendly and effective.
It underscores the urgency of getting urban transport fundamentals right to avert potentially disastrous long-term consequences.
A notable aspect highlighted in the World Bank report is the distinction between the paths that developed and developing countries must take to achieve low-carbon urban transport.
Developing countries, with their evolving land use and transportation infrastructure, have a unique window of opportunity to chart a new course toward low-carbon, efficient, and inclusive urban transport.
In contrast, developed countries may focus on the electrification of existing fleets. Crucially, the report emphasizes that the changes needed to reduce carbon emissions from urban transport also enhance the overall livability of cities.
This includes building effective public transport systems, creating bicycle lanes, and establishing safe pedestrian routes.
Such measures not only mitigate traffic congestion and local pollution but also improve citizens’ access to essential services like jobs, health, and education.
Nicolas Peltier-Thiberge, Global Director for Transport at the World Bank, asserts that comprehensive action is the key for developing countries.
By strategically building transport infrastructure and services, these nations can create systems that require less expensive retrofitting for climate and livability considerations in the future.
However, achieving this goal necessitates a paradigm shift in how cities plan, design, operate, and prioritize investments in urban passenger and freight transport.
The report sheds light on the current disparities in transport infrastructure in developing countries.
For instance, despite low car ownership in African capitals, a significant portion of transport budgets is allocated to road construction and maintenance.
Additionally, a substantial percentage of the population in African cities relies on walking due to limited transportation options.
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The consequences of a car-centric approach are evident in issues like congestion, local air pollution, and the marginalization of specific population segments.
Transitioning to low-carbon urban mobility goes beyond merely investing in sustainable transport infrastructure; it requires a holistic, system-wide approach.
This involves rethinking land use and spatial planning, strengthening institutions, mobilizing more resources for urban transport, fostering collaboration between the public and private sectors, and planning more efficient transport services.
Notably, the private sector’s involvement is crucial, and encouraging additional participation can enhance service quality and sustain ridership for energy-efficient shared modes.
Bianca Alves, Transport Practice Manager in Latin America and the Caribbean at the World Bank, underscores the unique opportunity for cities in low- and middle-income countries to leapfrog to low-carbon, efficient, and inclusive urban transport.
Maintaining the status quo, she warns, will fall short of both climate and development goals. Thus, the time for policymakers to act decisively is now, ensuring that urban transport becomes a catalyst for sustainable development and connectivity in the years to come.