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Tag Archives: development

Green energy for Africa

By Dave Elliott

The International Renewable Energy Agency says that Africa has the potential and the ability to utilise its renewable resources to fuel the majority of its future growth with renewable energy. It adds ‘doing so would be economically competitive with other solutions, would unlock economies of scale, and would offer substantial benefits in terms of equitable development, local value creation, energy security, and environmental sustainability’.

That seems a bold claim both technologically and economically, and also politically. But the renewable resource is very large (for solar especially) and the technologies are getting cheaper fast. However, with 54 very unevenly developed countries on the huge continent, whether the political and institutional cohesion is there for a co-ordinate push is  less certain. (more…)

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Urban transport in the developing world

By Felix Creutzig

Walking and cycling dominate urban transport in Asia and Africa. This statement is worth repeating. Walking and cycling dominate urban transport in Asia and Africa. It is one of the key statements in the book “Urban Transport in the Developing World“, subtitled “A Handbook for Policy and Practice”, edited by Harry Dimitriou and Ralph Gakenheimer. But it is much more than a handbook. It is the most comprehensive overview on the topic. With more than 600 pages, take your time reading it. While there is some redundancy, reading this book carefully will provide you with a superb, encompassing understanding of urban transport in the developing world.

Here is the book’s story. 60% of the world’s population live in Asia, and Asia is the epicenter of the global urbanization wave. Asia is also the focal point of incredible motorization with China alone being projected to have in 2050 nearly as many cars, as the world has currently on its roads, in totol: 700 million cars. An Asian city also gives its name to one of the key concepts I extracted from the book: the Bangkok syndrome. Similar to their OECD counterparts, Asian and African cities start with dense, walkable city cores. At the beginning of the last century, OECD cities invested in the then upcoming rail-based transport infrastructure, shaping cities profoundly. With the relatively slow but profound rise of automobility, American cities developed into low-density automobile cities, while European cities kept their inner cities served with public transit. Asian and African cities seem to be mostly on a different trajectory: They skip the stage of public transport infrastructures and move directly into individualized motorized mobility. This is too some degree quite surprising: Relative to their GDP, cities of the developing world invest much more into highways, citizens proportionally much more into personal transport than their OECD counterparts do and have done (see e.g. Jeffrey Kenworthy’s contribution). Inversely, these developing cities have high population density and are unsuitable for car transport. As a result, especially Asian cities develop into ‘motorcycle’ cities (Barter, 2000): motorized two-wheelers are best adapt to navigate the traffic disasters, but are subject to high accident rates and still face congestion.

Distribution and accessibility is another, related theme that develops continously across chapters. As the introductary statement indicates, paraphrased from Setty Pendakur’s chapter, non-motorized transport is the starting point of analysis, for transport efficiency and transport equity matters alike. Urban transport planning is often technocratically framed as ‘apolitical intervention’ (Eduardo Vasconcellos), where in fact it is top income segment who by driving their cars consume 10 times more space than the urban poor, consume a largest part of transport energy, and are responsible for most of street-level air pollution. It is then quite clear that a suitable normative objective for urban transport is reasonable accessibility for all, possibly emphasizing the urban poor (the concept itself actually may need to be qualified, see Xavier Godard’s chapter). Accesssibility itself is a highly interesting concept: Some cities, such as Dakar, seem to have high accessibililty – walkability – for the poorest quantile. In contrast, in cities like Buenos Aires the lowest income quintile pays proportionally to income much more than the richest quantile. Poverty may also directly reduce social contact by rendering visits to family or friends infeasible.

In line of the this comprehensive analysis, it then follows naturally to require comprehensive assessments of urban transport projects and plans, relying on strategic environmental assessments (Michael Replogle), inclusive equity evaluation (Eduardo Vasconcellos), and context-specific economic appraisal (Walter Hook). The key conundrum, however, is then in the meta-level of institions (Elliott Sclar and Julie Touber). In the dense urban environment of Asian and many African cities, the traffic disaster of the Bangkok syndrome can only be tackled with efficient public transport. But public transport can be regarded as a quasi-public good, and will not emerge from demand-side focussed market outcomes. Hence institutional capacity, a governance framework of promoting public goods and better public transport and non-motorized transport system need to coevolve simultenously. Transport planning alone is not enough.

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Get Climate Policies Rollin’: Diesel in Asia

By Felix Creutzig

The mismatch between insight on the need for climate change mitigation and implemented policies is amazing. Seemingly, this is a particularly hard global common good problem. So why not push much harder for pure win strategies. Pure win strategies often lack the intelectual appeal of a global cap and trade and, for being so nitty-gritty, put less glory on policy makers. But they can be valuable entry points for global cooperations. Here is
one example.

Diesel fuel reserves tax benefits in most Asian countries, and is favored in vehicle regulation. At the same time, pollution control is weak at best. At a result, vehicles powered by diesel emit tons of black carbon in addition to CO2. Black carbon is the third most gaseous contributor of climate change and has most of its climate impact on short time scales (more like 20 years), whereas CO2 remains in the atmosphere for more than 100 years in average. Black carbon and other diesel exhaust also pollutes the air breathed by billions of Asians, causing asthma and lung cancer.

Here is the strategy as developed by Minjares and Rutherford (both from ICCT, San Francisco) in the upcoming book “Low Carbon Transport in Asia” by Zusman, Srinivasan and Dhakal:

  •  Make particle filter in diesel vehicles
    mandatory. This can dramatically improve air condition for Asian city dwellers
    in the upcoming decades. Even more, this single measure can reduce GHG
    emissions by 14% on a GWP20 basis and by 4% on a GWP100 basis. Not the killer
    app, but considering the huge health benefits, this is a straight forward
  •  Switch to carbon-neutral fuel emission standards
    (i.e. corporate average, not weight-based, and I would insist, also not
    ). Asian countries can rely here, as well as for pollution control,
    on the well-established technological advance from OECD countries. No need for
    R&D investments here.
  •  Finally, tax benefits for diesel vehicles can be
    scrapped, and taxation can follow the GHG content of fuels only.

These measures require some institutional capacities, but not much financial resources from governments. That is probably where industrial countries or the Asian Development Bank can come in with support. But Asian countries profit most, besides climate mitigation, improving public health conditions drastically, especially for the poor, and raising tax
revenues simultaneously.

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Low Carbon Transport in Asia

By Felix Creutzig

Developing Asia is at a crossroads, transport-wise. And integrating co-benefits in transport decision-makes the difference. That in a nut-shell is the message of the book Low Carbon Transport in Asia – Strategies for optimizing co-benefits by Zusman, Srinivasan and Dhakal, just getting published at Earthscan.

The book builds on established approaches to quantify co-benefits of sustainable transport benefits. According to perspective, climate change mitigation is a co-benefit of air pollution combat or transport management or, the other way around: a better air quality is the co-benefit of ambitious climate protection. With close to half of the world population living
in mostly densely populated Asia, the exposure of transport impact is particularly relevant on this continent – a co-benefit approach will deliver most in Asia. The book, an organized collection of articles around this topic summarizes conceptualization efforts and developes case studies on realizing transport co-benefits. Crucially, the book manages to transcend pure quantification efforts and analyzes barriers to co-benefit strategies and corresponding
solution strategies. Zusman et al. identify two main avenues: A) clean and affordable technologies for motorized vehicles that can have huge impact on improving the health of billions of Asians while also substantially reducing non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions; and B) transport demand management strategies that are even more comprehensive, also addressing congestion, safety, and accessibility issues, but are also more ambitious.

While there is some overlap across chapters, all a well edited and are a very good read. The true value of this book, however, is its success in bringing the transport co-benefit literature together, providing an excellent overview for scientists and policymakers.

Disclosure: I contributed to this book project.

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Climate Change Congress: Stern words

By Liz Kalaugher

“I realise most of you here are scientists and not economists and that is your fault,” were the first words of Nicholas Stern of the London School of Economics at his plenary talk at the Copenhagen Climate Congress.

Later he laid out the pros and cons of both carbon trading and carbon tax schemes. “Don’t let anyone kid you that a tax scheme is clearly the best,” he said.


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