Emissions from transportation are the fastest growing source of global greenhouse gas emissions, with emissions expected to increase 300 percent by 2050, according to research by the Worldwatch Institute. Today, emissions from transportation contribute to approximately 80 percent of the harmful air pollutants that result in 1.3 million premature deaths annually, according to Michael Replogle and Colin Hughes of the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy (ITDP). The two authored the fourth chapter, “Moving Toward Sustainable Transport, in Worldwatch’s book State of the World 2012: Moving Toward Sustainable Prosperity, published in April.
The largest financial commitment made at the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development in June 2012 was a pledge by the 8 largest multilateral development banks (MDBs) to commit 500 staff and to dedicate $175 billion for more sustainable transportation in the coming decade. This unprecedented agreement was facilitated by the Partnership on Sustainable Low Carbon Transport (SLoCaT), which brings together 68 MDBs, civil society organizations, UN agencies, and research and industry organizations.
“This action promises to begin countering decades of unsustainable investments in transportation systems, such as building high-capacity motorways,” says Michael Renner, Worldwatch Senior Researcher and State of the World 2012 project co-director. “But it will require new resources for civil society groups to be able to ensure independent monitoring of impacts and follow-through by MDBs.”
“If transportation investments and management policies foster walking, cycling, use of high quality public transportation, and smart traffic management, growing urbanization can reduce consumption of scarce resources, protect public health, and deliver happier, nicer cities,” comments Michael Replogle, Managing Director for Policy and Founder of ITDP and State of the World 2012 contributing author. “These unprecedented MDB financial and reporting commitments present an opportunity to leverage large shifts in domestic and private transportation investment and to build capacity for a paradigm shift.”
The demands on transportation infrastructure continue to mount. Without changes in policy, 2 to 3 billion cars will be on the world’s roads by 2050, in comparison to 800 million cars today, according to the International Energy Agency.
Current transportation and land development patterns disadvantage the poor, often forcing them to choose between low incomes in informal-sector employment that is close to affordable housing, or somewhat higher-paying jobs that are reachable only if they spend a large share of their income and hours each day commuting. In many cities, the urban poor cannot afford public transportation and end up walking long distances. Additionally, in many places it is unsafe to walk. In Surabaya, Indonesia, for example, 60 percent of roads have no usable sidewalks.
“All of these negative consequences are not inevitable results of urbanization and development,” says Colin Hughes, Global Policy Director at ITDP and State of the World 2012 contributing author. “Experience in some cities show that in comparison to a business-as-usual rapid motorization strategy, sustainable transport strategies can address rising mobility needs that accompany increases in population, employment, and trade at a lower cost overall, with more job creation and fewer adverse impacts.”