(EnergyAsia, May 31) — A major shift is needed in Asia’s approach to transport to cut down on emissions that could prompt irreparable climate change, said ADB vice-president Geert van der Linden at a recent workshop on clean air.

           

Asia’s cities tend to focus on adding roads and high-cost public transport systems to accommodate increased vehicle traffic, he said. Instead, the region should be working on more environmentally sustainable approaches that promote walking and cycling or low-cost bus systems.


“The result has been overly congested, overly polluted cities with limited transport options for the poor,” he said.


Mr van der Lindem, who is responsible for ADB’s knowledge management and sustainable development operations, spoke at the recent workshop on Climate Change Mitigation in the Transport Sector, running at the ADB’s Manila Headquarters over two days. It was organised by ADB in cooperation with the Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities (CAI-Asia) with support from the Department for International Development of the UK.


The workshop brings together development partners from the public sector, non-government organisations and industry, among others, to discuss how upstream improvements to transport systems can contribute to a reduction in greenhouse gases as well as in more localised air pollutants.


With the region accounting for more than one quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, which are placing the earth’s climate in jeopardy, there is a danger of irreversible damage, said Mr. van der Linden.


“To continue on the current path would be to put the lives and livelihoods of millions at risk, with profound consequences for everyone, but especially the poor.”


Transport is not only the largest source of these emissions, but also the fastest growing, with vehicle fleets doubling every two years in some Asian cities, he pointed out.


But he noted there are promising signs in many countries, including tightened vehicle emission standards, improved fuel quality, and elimination of lead from gasoline. Some local governments have also moved to radically improve public transport systems. But countries also need to reduce sulfur in fuels and allow the introduction of advanced emissions control equipment.


He said problems must be addressed holistically, changing existing travel behavior patterns toward greater use of public transport.


“It means modifying urban development patterns to minimize the length and frequency of trips that people need to take,” he said.


He called for a vision for a multi-faceted approach that embraces urban development, demand management, cleaner fuels and vehicles, and the development of new technologies that improves access of all sectors of society, especially the poor, to jobs and services.


“Bringing a group like this together is key to forging a way forward, because progress depends on the partnership and involvement of a wide range of stakeholders,” he said. “Let’s commit to take this excellent beginning forward in the spirit of teamwork, to create a cleaner, more sustainable Asia for future generations to enjoy.”