Low-Emission Transport

March 14, 2014


Long-term mobility patterns and future level of greenhouse gas emissions are determined by today’s transport investment choices. Transport is the fastest growing consumer of fossil fuels and the fastest growing source of CO2 emissions. It is estimated that the sector contributes about 20 percent to global energy-related CO2 emissions.  With 1 billion cars already on the road, it is crucial to support the transition toward a green global economy and design efficient infrastructure projects and policies that avoid unsustainable lock-ins.

Developing countries, which still face a large transport infrastructure gap, have the opportunity to leap frog car-dependent transport and adopt multimodal strategies that reduce pollution, energy consumption and congestion, while achieving economic development and improving people’s wellbeing. The decisions client countries make today about transportation infrastructure and policy will lock in development patterns for decades to come, and will have a direct impact on health and on the environment. Urban transformation, modal shift for passenger and freight mobility, transport infrastructure supply and demand, or cross- sector policy integration, are key aspects that will determine how sustainable a country’s growth path will be in the long run.

Low-emission transport is part of the World Bank strategy to address the rising demand for mobility and trade opportunities, and mitigate climate change effects. The World Bank is engaged in the reduction of the transport carbon footprint, and it supports client countries in their effort to transition to low-carbon mobility through assistance on policy development, and project interventions tailored to specific country needs. The World Bank’s policy agenda on transport and climate change has been published in 2013, in the flagship report Turning the Right Corner – Ensuring Development through a Low Carbon Transport Sector. This analyses relationships between mobility, low-carbon transport and development, and shows how policies can be organized to generate revenues that allow an affordable transition to low-carbon transport

The transport sector strategy encourages green transport solutions. Innovative efforts are undertaken to reduce emissions without endangering mobility (new technologies, new supply structures and demand management), to exploit the true potential of climate policies and to reduce sector vulnerability by improving infrastructure services and ensuring resilient new investment. For transport projects to capitalize on their full transformational potential, cross-sectoral synergies and linkages are promoted. Operations in progress and under preparation seek the deployment and transfer of low carbon programs and projects through global partnership programs administered by the World Bank - such as the Clean Technology Fund (CTF), and the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

  • In Mexico, IBRD, in partnership with the Carbon Fund and the Clean Technology Fund, contributes to the transformation of urban transport toward a lower carbon growth path. The Urban Transport Transformation Program (FY10) proposed to reduce CO2 emissions in Mexican cities by approximately 1.96 million tons per year beginning in 2017 through capacity building and the development of 18 integrated transit systems. This project represented a scaling-up of the prototype Carbon Fund project: Mexico City Insurgentes Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) System (FY05), which was the first surface mass transport corridor in Mexico City. At end of 2012, 17 percent of the users of the Insurgentes BRT owned a car, but chose to use the BRT system, and demand had reached an average of 290,000 rides per weekday, with peaks of over 300,000 trips per day.
  • GEF funded Guangdong Green Freight Demonstration Project in China (US$4.2 million) approved in FY 11, has as objective to demonstrate the global and local environmental benefits of the energy efficiency vehicle technologies and operating techniques, and to support the development of sustainable measures for improving energy efficiency in the road freight transport sector in Guangdong Province in China. Project beneficiaries include more than 500, 000 trucking companies registered in Guangdong (including truck owners and operators) that are seeking to reduce operating costs, about 96.4 million residents in Guangdong (about 47.2 million of whom are women) - particularly those (about 63% of the total population) living in urban areas, suppliers of energy efficient technologies; and shippers  seeking to reduce carbon footprints in their business practices and make their business more environmentally friendly

Measuring the wider impacts of transport. Access to affordable transport services is a major first step towards inclusive development. With affordable transport services, rural areas can access markets and nations can benefit from deeper integration with the world economy. Affordability refers not just to consumer prices but to all costs to society, including time lost in congestion. In Mexico City for example, 20 percent of workers spend more than three hours commuting to work each day. Chronic traffic congestion is estimated to cost about 3% of cities’ GDP in South Korea.

The World Bank is developing a comprehensive assessment methodology to include the wider benefits of transport, congestion costs, health costs of local air pollution, road safety risks and greenhouse gas emissions in ex ante planning and evaluation of projects and policies. Avoidance of external costs of transport provides the perspective of capturing avoided external costs as project value added in determining internal rate of returns in an economic, but also in a broader social sense.