Clean mobility options to counter climate change? Africa Clean Mobility Week March 2018

Image Credit: United Nations Environment Programme Africa Clean Mobility Week 12 -16 March 2018

Every country in the world is currently thinking about or will at one time think about a revolutionary transportation system. Why because the transportation sector plays a very vital role in advancing any economy. Think about how road, air, water and rail transport facilitates businesses across region and countries. 

So mobility revolution is a common term for any country wanting to improve its transportation sector. But provision of an affordable and accessible mobility is a huge challenge in the face of fast urbanization trends and population growth, for instance, whether you are talking about this happening in some place in Africa or in United States. The demand for connectivity is increasing at a higher rate than ever, whether the desire is to connect a state or province to another, a country to another, or a continent to another. 

World Bank estimates that an additional 1.2 billion cars will be on road by 2030 to double the current figure. Global freight volumes will also grow by 70 percent by then compared to 2015 figure, while the annual passenger traffic will surpass 80 trillion passenger-kilometers to double the 2015 figure.

Clean Mobility  

The challenge does not get any easier when you include the rising demand for clean mobility revolution, another term alluding to the need to "care" about how much damage traditional mobility methods and systems cause to our environment. The demand could not be higher given the ever increasing transportation and mobility options in the both mechanized and "electronized" world that we live in and the increasing number of vehicles, motorbikes, airplanes, ships, motorboats and others.

Therefore, at the center of such an environmental concern are thoughts, ideas and policies about fuel economy, fuel quality, vehicle standards, fleet age, transport system efficiency, transport technology efficiency, transport safety, success or failures of non-motorized transport, and transport regulation. Green Mobility targets at reducing air and noise pollution through mitigation and adaptation efforts and relates to the Sustainable Development Goals 13 of the 2030 Agenda meant to combat climate change. It is anchored in the  Paris Agreement on Climate Change.    

How much of negative effects any transportation system contributes to our planet earth is probably now a basic question. The negative environmental effects are immense, whether you are talking about noise from airplanes at unacceptable distances or the actual emissions they give off. That affects the environment, economy and health of dwellers of any continent. 

For instance, for starters, cars and planes release carbon dioxide among other gases that contribute to global warming. Speaking generally, environmental impacts feeds back to health issues including non-communicable diseases, such as cancer, heart disease and stroke, all linked to air pollution, noise and lack of walking and cycling. No need to mention unchecked noise levels.

Transport sector and climate change

First, transport sector around the world contributes 23 percent of the energy-related greenhouse gas emissions and 18 percent of all man-made emissions in the global economy. A World Bank report released last year says that transport was the largest energy consuming sector in 40 percent of countries worldwide in 2012. It was second-largest consumer in the remaining countries. Carbon dioxide gas emissions from energy are expected to grow by 40 percent between 2013 and 2040. So, combating climate change through transportation sector-related initiatives is vital.

Besides that, only a few sub-Saharan countries had operational routine monitoring systems for air quality monitoring standards (Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Madagascar, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe) according to a 2012 report by Stockholm Environment Institute. The report found that despite 27 of the countries investigated having environment protection acts, most were poorly implemented or not implemented at all despite the specifications about air quality in them. This is despite evidence that poor air quality could lead to around 50,000 deaths a year in the region.   

Initiatives towards clean mobility in Africa   

There are a few global initiatives aiming at impacting mobility through green or clean mobility initiatives in Africa. An example is UN's Africa Clean Mobility week that seeks to raise awareness of clean and green mobility through understanding and action. It happens every year. This year, it will take place on March 12 to 16 at the UN Environment Headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya.

Participants in the event will include representatives in academia, energy and transport ministry representatives from Africa, NGOs and participants from the transport, government officials, civil society, experts in transport and environment, and other industries. It will bring together stakeholders in the industry in an effort to contribute towards a sustainable transportation sector around the world. Such is especially for Africa that is planning huge transportation revolution evidenced by the huge transportation projects the pipeline. For instance, there is huge demand for transportation and connectivity in the continent because about two billion people are expected to live in urban cities by 2045. The current growth in population far exceeds growth in public transport and limits access to economic and social opportunities.      

Participants will discuss, among other issues, how to improve fuel efficiency, how countries will contribute to clean mobility and how countries can accelerate leapfrogging to electric mobility. They will also discuss the role of non-motorized transport in cleaner mobility, how to increase awareness of clean mobility through media engagement and how to finance clean mobility.