With cities set to house almost 5 billion people by 2030, how urban transport systems are designed will be pivotal for local economies, public health, and the global environment.
In June 2012, Rio de Janeiro blazed a trail for sustainable transport when it launched a 56 km cross-city bus rapid transit (BRT) system. Designed and implemented with technical support from EMBARQ, the high-tech bus route carries 220,000 passengers a day, establishing best practice in bringing improved quality of life while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
BRT systems bring proven environmental, social, and economic benefits to crowded, congested, and polluted cities.
In Rio, the new BRT line, Transoeste, replaces short, fragmented bus routes with a rapid-transit corridor that gives priority to buses and enables passengers to cross the city on one bus instead of several. Pre-ticketing speeds journeys, as do dedicated BRT lanes and high-platform stations in place of roadside bus stops. For the first time, people from the west of Rio de Janeiro without cars can easily access opportunities in the far south.
The result is safer transport, shorter commutes, less pollution, and greater social inclusion. Typical travel time has been cut by at least half for 65 percent of riders. Surveys suggest 90 percent of passengers are satisfied with the new service. “Now I have one more hour to sleep in the morning and more time to play with my kids in the evening,” was one typical comment.
EMBARQ studies show road safety benefits from the BRT corridor. The BRT will save an estimated 300,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year by 2016, as well as 148 million hours of passengers’ time.
Making Change Happen: WRI’s Role
EMBARQ promotes BRT routes and their critical role in sustainable, integrated public transport systems around the world.
In Rio, EMBARQ Brazil partnered with the Municipal Secretariat for Transport and Mayor Eduardo Paes in providing technical support for Transoeste. In addition to providing design and project management expertise, EMBARQ assisted with marketing the new transport system to residents and the media. We also guide continuing safety audits that will help maximize passenger safety benefits.
By 2016, the year Rio hosts the summer Olympics, city authorities plan to expand the BRT network to 153 km. This expansion would make it the largest BRT network in Latin America, carrying 1.2 million passengers daily. By showcasing the bus transportation of the future, Rio’s actions can help promote BRT scale-up across emerging economies.
More than half the world’s population lives in cities, and they contribute more than 70 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. Therefore, city leaders are key players in global efforts to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs) and curb climate change.
While many urban centers around the world are already taking action, until recently there was no broadly accepted, standardized guidance to help officials measure and report emissions from cities. This situation changed in 2012 with the release of the pilot Global Protocol for Community-Scale GHG Emissions, a comprehensive, easy-to-use pilot GHG accounting and reporting protocol jointly developed by WRI, C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, and ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability.
The protocol is based on consensus built among key stakeholders, including WRI, C40, ICLEI, the World Bank, United Nations Center for Human Settlements (UN-HABITAT), and United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). More than 30 other expert international organizations also provided inputs.
Enabling Cities to Take Climate Action
Launched during the international climate talks in Bonn, Germany in May 2012, the protocol marks a major step forward for city-level GHG accounting. It guides municipal authorities through gathering comprehensive data on emission sources, tracking performance, responding to local GHG regulations, and building effective, low-carbon strategies. Cities can customize their results for local reporting needs while being compatible with a common international standard.
Besides the above expert international organizations, the protocol drew on practical experience from city officials from Buenos Aires; Eugene and Portland, Oregon; Mexico City; Paris; Taipei; Toronto; and others. The final protocol will be released in 2013 and will incorporate lessons learned by 15-20 pilot cities around the world.
Making Change Happen: WRI’s Role
WRI’s GHG Protocol standards are the prime tool used for measuring and reporting corporate GHG emissions worldwide. In developing the cities protocol, our partners agreed to adopt GHG Protocol’s “scope” approach to emissions counting, which treats direct and indirect emissions separately and avoids double-counting. Drawing on lessons we learned in providing technical assistance to cities in China and Brazil, together with C40 and ICLEI, WRI—together with C40 and ICLEI—successfully developed a comprehensive framework, which includes all urban emission sources and six types of GHGs.
During 2013, we will work with C40 and ICLEI to pilot test the draft protocol on the ground. Our GHG Protocol team is already working with cities in India, Brazil, and China.
A growing number of countries and companies now measure and manage their emissions through greenhouse gas (GHG) inventories. Cities, however, lack a common framework for tracking their own emissions—until now.
Brazilian cities and municipalities vary in the status of their efforts to collect GHG data and conduct emissions inventories. The event focused on emissions management efforts so far. Below are six lessons highlighted by participants in the discussion:
1. Strong political commitment is crucial for success. Many cities in Brazil have made strong political commitments to address climate change. For example, Rio and Belo Horizonte have created municipal climate change laws with mandatory GHG reduction targets. Rio’s target is to reduce emissions by 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, while Belo Horizonte’s is 20 percent by 2030. In both cases, city-wide GHG inventories have been conducted to inform and track performance toward these targets.
2. The inventory is the first step in low-carbon development. Participants stressed the importance of the GHG inventory process (see figure below) as a planning tool to help cities assess their emissions, identify emission sources, set reduction targets, prioritize mitigation actions, and track performance. For instance, Belo Horizonte’s inventory found that the transportation sector is the city’s major source of GHG emissions (71 percent); this information will help the city identify reduction measures. Prof. Jose Goldemberg, former federal Minister and São Paulo State Secretary of Environment, stressed that GHG inventories help cities identify key emission sources and implement low-carbon technologies. Nelson Moreira Franco, Director for Climate Change Management and Sustainable Development for the City of Rio, stressed that the “GHG inventory is a powerful instrument to manage emissions and influence policy-making.”
As more and more people move into cities, more cars are also hitting the streets. These vehicles not only spew greenhouse gas emissions, they can cause urban traffic fatalities. We already see 1.2 million traffic-related deaths per year worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, with increased urbanization and motorization, road fatalities are expected to become the fifth-leading cause of death by 2030.
What are some of the key drivers of urban traffic fatalities? What can be done to reduce fatalities through sustainable urban development and sustainable urban mobility? What are successful examples of projects to reduce road fatalities in cities?
BNDES is Brazil’s key financial institution for domestic long-term financing, and it’s one of the main financial engines behind Brazil’s take-off as a leading Latin American economy. Its lending and equity investments are becoming increasingly important internationally.
The Amazon rainforest boasts incomparable biodiversity– home to one in 10 of all known species— and plays a vital role in regional water supply and global climate regulation. Yet, it is also a profitable working forest, benefitting both local businesses and international corporations.
Trying to reconcile the conservation and commercial roles of such biodiversity hotspots is no easy matter. But a group of multinational corporations— Anglo American, Danone, Grupo Maggi, PepsiCo, Natura, Vale, Votorantim, and Walmart— are attempting to do just that in Brazil.
Sarah Martin and Gayatri Gadag also contributed to this blog post.
Rio+20 may have ended more than three weeks ago, but the environmental and development communities are still feeling the disappointment. One of the biggest shortcomings was the lack of collaboration between citizen groups (the “grassroots”) and the policy research organizations that influence policymakers (the “grasstops”).
As WRI’s Manish Bapna points out, “A gap and lack of coordination between grassroots and grasstops institutions was evident during the Rio+20 summit. Advancing sustainable development in a meaningful way hinges on bridging this gap.” In other words, creating political will and building the constituency necessary to support the policy changes being advocated for requires collaboration between different segments of civil society.
Expanding Clean Energy Access
Bridging the grassroots-grasstops divide is especially necessary when it comes to clean energy access, an issue that received much attention at Rio+20 as a result of U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s Sustainable Energy for All (SE4A) initiative. SE4A is a global initiative that aims to mobilize action from all sectors of society to support universal access to modern energy services, improve energy efficiency, and increase the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix. However, actually expanding clean energy access will require cooperation between think tanks, institutions, governments, and the citizens who are most in need of sustainable energy access.