Action and Advocacy for Sustainable Transport: Recent and Ongoing World Bank Efforts

September 29, 2015


This is note #21 in the Connections series. Download PDF Version 

By  Pierre Guislain and Jose Luis Irigoyen [1] 

During its 2014–15 fiscal year, the World Bank’s transport strategy focused on sustainability as part of a broader effort to eradicate poverty, raise shared prosperity, and tackle climate change. As articulated by the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Advisory Group on Sustainable Transport (see Connections Note 18), sustainability encompasses heightened access in rural and landlocked areas, low-carbon solutions in cities, and world trade and growth stimulated by investments in infrastructure, inter-modality, and digital and low-carbon technologies. The World Bank’s new commitments in fiscal year 2015[2] reflected this convergence, and its operational focus has been backed by strong advocacy on transport issues in recent global conferences and high-level summits.

Investments in Sustainable Transport

The World Bank’s operational focus was on supporting sustainable solutions—universal, efficient, safe, and environmental-friendly—to connect people and businesses to jobs, social services, and markets. In fiscal year 2015 (FY15), new lending commitments were evenly distributed across Africa (26%), South Asia (25%), Europe and Central Asia (23%), and East Asia (19%), with smaller shares going to Latin America and the Middle East and North Africa.

Some indicators of the World Bank’s new investment in sustainable transport during FY15 are as follows:

• $5.3 billion invested in 34 countries—contributing to the Rio+20 pledge of $175 billion toward sustainable transport over 2012–22 by the eight leading multilateral development banks

• $1.1 billion for transport mitigation, $200 million for adaptation

• 50 loans and grants

• 58 technical assistance activities

• Financing for 4,400 kilometers of road, 900 km of railways, 15 urban transport systems, two airports, and two ports

• More than 70% of projects had a gender indicator and 100% of road projects had a road safety component


The World Bank has taken a lead role in elevating the profile of transport issues in both global and bilateral discussions:

• In the UN high-level advisory group on sustainable transport and its technical working group; in supporting the Addis Ababa Conference on Financing for Development; and in the drafting of the high-level narrative on sustainable transport;

• Working on both the analytical and strategic fronts in raising the profile of transport for the November 2015 Global High-Level Conference on Road Safety and the December 2015 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (CoP 21)

Most fundamentally, the World Bank has contributed to the development of the UN’s post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and is advocating the adoption of transport-related targets and indicators to track SDG progress. The work on transport-related indicators has been part of the sector’s effort to provide evidence-based support of its sustainability narrative.

Indicators need data, and impact evaluation (IE) is a key tool for obtaining high-quality feedback on projects. To expand the use of IE, the World Bank launched its “IE—Connect for Impact” program to engage clients and development financiers in an evidence-based dialogue on transport and ICT (see Connections Note 17).

Sustainability at Work

Bank transport projects have tackled some of the more complex, integrated development challenges, including development corridors and urban mobility, by going beyond standard infrastructure financing into spatial development, policy reforms, and global public goods.

• In Ethiopia, supporting development corridors by enhancing the infrastructure backbone with intelligent transport systems and a safe systems approach ($370 million IDA credit)

• In Vietnam, taking a bus rapid transit project in Ho Chi Minh City beyond the traditional model to incorporate transit-oriented development for the surrounding area ($124 million IDA credit)

• In Colombia, helping the government strengthen its policy framework for developing sustainable, inclusive cities and inter-urban connectivity ($700 million IBRD credit)

• In India, helping improve the efficiency of bus service in four demonstration cities while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by a total of 230,000 tonnes through 2023 ($9.2 million GEF grant)

• In Kazakhstan, supporting the ongoing further extension of the Western China–Western Europe Corridor

Sustainability Dimensions of Lending

In addition to compliance with the Bank’s safeguard policy, transport projects have been enhanced with certain sustainability dimensions that are backed by objective targets:

• Climate benefits. In FY15, 31 percent of the new commitments in transport included climate benefits equivalent to $1.3 billion. The tracking methodology has been harmonized among other multilateral development banks (MDBs).

• Greenhouse gas emissions. Unique among MDBs is the World Bank’s requirement that all transport projects account for greenhouse gas emissions at project appraisal. The methodology was peer-reviewed externally in June 2015 and was piloted on seven projects.

• Road safety. All road projects are screened for road safety during the preparation and design phase.  Dedicated safety components are included when feasible, and in FY15, all World Bank road projects included such a component.

• Gender impact. Projects are screened to encourage provision of the following elements for gender relevance: (1) gender analysis, (2) a project component, and (3) monitoring and evaluation of gender impact. In FY15, 55% of transport projects met all three criteria, and 79% met at least one.

• Jobs and employment impact. In FY15, the main development objective for 10% of transport projects was job creation, and job gains were an incidental result for 53%.

For more information on this topic visit the website of the Secretary-General’s High-level Advisory Group on Sustainable Transport

[1] Senior Director and Director, respectively, of the World Bank’s Transport and ICT Global Practice.

[2] All loans and grants with transport components that were made from July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2015, by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and by the International Development Association (IDA).

Connections is a weekly series of knowledge notes from the World Bank Group’s Transport & Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Global Practice. Covering projects, experiences, and front-line developments, the series is produced by Nancy Vandycke and Shokraneh Minovi. The notes are available at