Addressing Climate Change in Transport

Asia’s motorized transport emissions have become a significant contributor to the global problem of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that leads to climate change. In 2009, transport was responsible for 23% of global GHG emissions compared with 41% for energy. But by 2035 transport is expected to become the single largest GHG emitter accounting for 46% of global emissions, and by 2050 it is set to reach 80%. Emissions from transport are the fastest growing source of CO2 emissions, with the vast majority of projected increases expected to come from developing Asia. In 2006, Asia accounted for 19% of total worldwide transport–sector related CO2 emissions. By 2030, the share of Asia in total worldwide transport–sector related CO2 emissions will increase to 31%.

Mitigating climate change in transport

In view of the priority accorded internationally to the issue of climate change, there is an urgent need for ADB to assist in developing effective, efficient solutions that can work on a large scale in the transport sector in developing Asia. A useful conceptual tool to guide this work at country and regional level is the avoid-shift-improve approach:

  • Avoid means reducing the need to travel—for example by integrating land use and transport planning to create local clusters of economic activity that require less mobility; by changing how production is organized (e.g. doing more online); and by developing multi-modal logistic chains to cut wasteful and unnecessary trips.
  • Shift means changing to more energy efficient modes or routes—such as shifting from road to rail or waterways, or onto well-defined trucking routes; or shifting passengers from private vehicles to public transport and non-motorized modes.
  • Improve means using technologies that are more energy efficient—including through improving vehicle standards, inspection and enforcement; developing improved vehicle technologies and fuels; and improving transport efficiency using information technology

Through the Sustainable Transport Initiative, ADB will expand its operations in developing competitive long-distance railways and inland waterways, and provide support for investment in missing links that will reduce energy consumption and emissions through distance shortening. These will serve as demonstration projects to encourage wider use by developing member countries. In supporting railways and inland waterways, ADB will be promoting business models capable of realizing the potential competitiveness of these modes—within the public sector, privately, or through public-private partnerships.

ADB will also mainstream climate adaptation measures into its transport operations. These will include making climate adaptation adjustments to engineering specifications, alignments, and master planning; incorporating associated environmental measures; and adjusting maintenance and contract scheduling.

Adaptation to climate change in transport

A further dimension of climate change is that transport investments are vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Such effects include rises in sea-level, changes in permafrost conditions and locations, changes in precipitation, and increases in the frequency and intensity of storms, floods and droughts. These have consequences to the design, construction and alignment of roads, railway track and other transport infrastructure.  In order to address these challenges, ADB is currently developing improved analytical tools to systematically integrate adaptation measures into ADB transport operations.