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Transforming the World’s Mobility – It’s time for Action

May 5, 2016

World Bank Group

  • May 5-6, leaders from governments, civil society, academia, and the private sector, are participating in the Climate Action 2016 Summit
  • Climate Action 2016 Summit is sponsored by World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the UN Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change Michael Bloomberg and others.

Two weeks after 175 government representatives came together in New York City to sign the historic Paris Climate Agreement, leaders are gathering in Washington, D.C. to advance concrete actions that will make the agreement a reality.

On May 5-6 leaders from national and local governments, civil society, academia, and the private sector, are participating in the Climate Action 2016 Summit, an event sponsored by various partners, including World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and the UN Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change Michael Bloomberg.  

While the challenges to tackle climate change span numerous sectors and require actions on multiple fronts, including in agriculture and energy, one area that is crucial for lowering the world’s carbon footprint is transportation.  

“We will be outlining here, at this conference, the main principles for a plan to transform the world’s transport systems,” said President Kim in his opening remarks.  “We are calling it ‘sustainable mobility for all’  - it means moving people and goods in an accessible, efficient and safe way to help cut poverty, cut emissions and increase resilience to a changing climate.”

Speaking on behalf of the COP22 Presidency, H.E. Dr. Hakima El Haite, Minister-in-charge of the Environment of the Kingdom of Morocco, said that "Transport, like any other sectors which are responsible for gas emissions, needs governments with a vision, needs innovation, and needs actions."

"We should establish the link between sustainable transportation and countries' national-determined contributions because 70 per cent of the NDCs include transport (…), noted El Haite. “We should establish the link between sustainable transportation and the whole vision for the transformation of society, and the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.”

Not business as usual

Today, transport accounts for nearly a quarter of energy-related global greenhouse gas emissions. With the global population set to rise to 9.6 billion by 2050, business as usual will increase emissions from transport to 33% and the number of vehicles on the road could double to two billion by 2030. This will also threaten road safety, as road crashes already claim some 1.3 million lives every year and injure some 50 million people worldwide. The lack of road safety also costs up to 5 percent of countries’ GDP, mostly affecting the poorest ones.

“We can and must enter a new era in mobility. Technologies necessary to significantly reduce the footprint of transport and to make transport accessible to all already exist,” said Denis Coderre, Mayor of Montreal, Canada. “The new eco-friendly electric public transit network proposed for the Montreal region is one example of what can be done. To bring these projects to scale, we need to unite behind a clear vision and clear targets.”

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 increasing road safety and boosting economic growth. But they must make these choices now because today’s transport investments will determine the mobility patterns and the greenhouse gas emissions of tomorrow.

Four action areas

Making mobility more sustainable translates into transport systems that are more accessible, efficient, safer, and climate responsive. These four action areas are already embedded in the Sustainable Development Goals and Paris Climate Agreement.  And many countries are already implementing projects that aim to realize them.

In Rio de Janeiro, for example, the World Bank is helping the government to upgrade and green the city’s rail system by funding more than 100 new energy efficient trains to improve services and reduce travel time for low-income families living on the city’s outskirts. This will increase people’s access to jobs, schools, and health care. And it will help reduce 93.700 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to taking off the road some 25,000 gasoline passenger cars per year.

And on road safety the World Bank is fully supportive 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. The World Bank-led multi-donor Global Road Safety Facility is providing to more than 20 countries with technical assistance and advice to implement stronger safety measures on their roads.

Urgent & bold action

In order to achieve sustainable mobility, however, public and private sector stakeholders need to seize the momentum and be ambitious. While last year proved crucial to laying out the vision for sustainable development—from the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals in New York in September to the COP21 in Paris in December—now is the time for action.

“If we can join up all our efforts to make global mobility more sustainable, we stand to improve the lives of billions of people across the world – in terms of health, environment and quality of life while also tackling climate change,” said Laura Tuck, World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development.