Opening Africa’s sustainable transport


While per capita CO2 emissions remain low in Africa, rapid urbanisation is projected to double number of vehicles in many cities in just six years, a situation that could put the health and well-being of thousands of Africans at risk.

Studies show that in Nairobi, for example, air pollution levels are at times seven times as high as the maximum World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines. Pollution in the Kenyan capital doubles near the central business district, reflecting high pollution from vehicle exhaust fumes.

The roadmap adopted by the African ministers seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport by adopting a comprehensive approach that aims to promote the use of low-emission non-motorised transport, encourage the development of quality public transport and increase investment in clean technologies.

Recently, transport and environment ministers from 42 African countries converged at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) headquarters in Nairobi to witness the adoption of a new historic framework that will set in motion Africa’s sustainable transport transition, benefiting health, the environment and overall sustainable development across the continent. 

The conference aims to implement concrete actions to integrate sustainable transport into the Africa’s development and planning processes. 

The renewed focus on sustainable transport in Africa is critical in supporting more inclusive growth and avoiding locking in countries to an unsustainable development path.

Globally, air pollution is killing 7 million people annually, four times the impact of HIV/AIDS and malaria combined, according to the WHO, whose studies estimate that per capita figures for deaths from outdoor air pollution in Africa are well below the world average ‑ but the lack of sufficient data constitutes a barrier for the production of accurate estimates.

President Uhuru Kenyatta told the participants at the Africa Sustainable Transport Forum (ASTF) meeting on November 5, that the conference comes at a time when Africa is at a critical stage in implementing its development agenda 2063.

“For this agenda to gain traction, it requires our commitment to a shared strategic framework for inclusive growth and sustainable development for Africa’s transformation.

 It also requires that we do things differently to achieve our vision of an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa.

“Further, Agenda 2063 identifies infrastructure transport and interconnectedness as key drivers and enablers to our social and economic development,” President Kenyatta added. Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General, on his part has congratulated African governments for taking the initiative to formulate a sustainable transport strategy.

“Your commitment to develop and maintain reliable, modern, sustainable and affordable infrastructure in both rural and urban areas is in line with the emerging African Agenda 2063 and the associated Common African Position on the post-2015 development agenda.

“Only a few months ago, I participated in the first UN Environment Assembly, at which member countries called on the international community and UNEP to strengthen their work on air quality. 

I am happy to see we are already putting this into action, today, through developing a sustainable transport roadmap for Africa.”

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director said, “With spending on transport infrastructure growing at an unprecedented rate across Africa, policymakers have a window of opportunity to mitigate climate change threats and ensure the health and well-being of millions of Africans by introducing clean and efficient transportation.”

“The ASTF Framework will provide the platform for Africa’s decision-makers to share best practices, coordinate sustainable transport efforts and provide focus to development planning to transition its transport sector into one that is more resource-efficient, environmentally sound and cost-effective for its ambitious and increasingly mobile population.”

Jose Luis Irigoyen, Director of Transport and ICT, Global Practice of the World Bank said the renewed focus on sustainable transport in Africa is critical in supporting more inclusive growth and avoiding locking in countries to an unsustainable development path.

While, Dr Joan Clos, Executive Director of UN-Habitat said, “The ASTF Framework, and the bi-annual ASTF meetings, will allow leaders to share knowledge and best practices, while acting as a mechanism for funding and investment for sustainable transport infrastructure across the region.”

Reducing CO2 emissions is a growing challenge for the transport sector. According to the World Bank, transportation produces roughly 23 percent of the global CO2 emissions from fuel combustion.

More alarmingly, transportation is the fastest growing consumer of fossil fuels and the fastest growing source of CO2 emissions. With rapid urbanisation in developing countries, energy consumption and CO2 emissions by urban transport are increasing rapidly everywhere in the world, including Africa.

December 2014
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