Prospects for ‘Decarbonization’ of African Transport

Date - 01 / 09 / 2017

Prospects for ‘Decarbonization’ of African Transport

African CO2 emissions from transport

In 2014, Africa was responsible for 3% of world’s CO2 emissions, and 4% of world’s transport-related CO2 emissions — up from 3% in 2005. Transport generated 26% of all CO2 emissions in Africa in 2014, up from 23% in 2005, and higher than world average of 23%. Furthermore, 95% of emissions produced by the transport sector in Africa come from road vehicles. Nevertheless total, per capita, transport-related CO2 emissions in Africa amount to only a quarter (24%) of total transport-related per capita CO2 emissions worldwide.[1]

Conceptual Framework for Approaching African Transportation

An effective way to conceive of the potential for the decarbonization of the transportation sector, and of the challenges that such a transformation in Africa faces, is to engage in a ‘policy-based decomposition’ of the transformation, using the ‘EASI’ conceptual framework. Its analytical components are outlined in Figure 1.

(Figure 1. EASI Conceptual Framework)

Enable: Establish Effective Overall Local Governance

This is a general, overall task and goal impacting upon all policy objectives, including both development targets and any type of transformation of the transportation sector. As such, it is not directly addressed here in a discussion of the energy-transportation nexus in Africa and the discrete policy levers available to stimulate a decarbonizing transformation of the sector across the continent.

Nevertheless, beyond the need for better and more efficient governance, other more concrete options do exist : (1) avoid the need for individual motorized transport through adequate land-use planning and effective transport planning and management; (2) shift individual motorized transportation to more socially and environmentally sustainable modes of transportation (like public transport, cycling and walking) so as to promote an efficient ‘multi-modal’ transportation system; and (3) improve the efficiency of transport modes and services while minimizing their environmental footprint (including GHG emissions and other air pollutants) through better road space use and increased vehicle efficiency (by introducing cleaner fuels, among other measures).

Avoid: heading off need for motorized transport

A very effective way to reduce energy consumption – and with it, GHG related emissions – is to act in a way that avoids the need for ‘motorized’ transportation demand (current and/or future). The ideal approach would take advantage of highly-populated urban settings which are both compact and dense. Land areas in such an urban space would be dedicated to (and/or zoned for) ‘mixed primary uses,’ and would be easily both walkable and cycleable.

However, the African reality currently erects a number of barriers to the realization of such ideal urban contexts. First, a significant amount of infrastructure investment is required to shape cities in such a fashion; however, the growth of African cities currently is outstripping by far the inflow of investment. African cities also lack basic pedestrian and cycling facilities. Nor do their land markets function efficiently, as such cities fail to aggregate opportunities effectively, and suffer from a dominant ‘homogenization’ of land-uses (as opposed to mixed uses), which undermines the attempt to avoid motorized transportation, as one is forced to drive to each area for only a single objective. As a result, as African cities further develop an articulated density, motorized travel is likely to increase.

Shift: motorized transport from low to high capacity vehicles

Urban Transport: Bus Reform

Another possible policy approach would involve stimulating a shifting within the motorized transportation fleet from ‘low’ to ‘high’ passenger capacity vehicles used in urban transportation (eg, from cars to buses). An ideal context, in which such a shift might occur, would be characterized by authorities and other relevant actors capable of both: (1) facilitating appropriate business models for public transit operators, particularly with regard to the frequency, comfort and affordability of bus lines/journeys; and (2) accumulating or leveraging sufficient capital to be able to invest in large capacity and high-quality vehicles.

African urban realities are such, however, that the public bus systems are dominated by small-scales and very low margins, and they are forced to operate within a context of weak public institutions and varying degrees of ‘auto-regulation.’ The ‘total vehicle kilometers traveled’ (VKT) is therefore higher than it need be – due to the many low-capacity vehicles serving transportation demand. As a result, total GHG and other pollutant emissions are higher.


Urban Transport: Development of Mass Transportation

Another form of ‘shift’ within the realm of urban transport would be to develop systems of mass transportation (ie, mass transit). Ideally, this would imply developing and implementing a hierarchical series of transportation services that would channel passenger mobility flows towards high-capacity ‘corridors.’ However, this possibility is currently held in check by: (1) a lack of adequate know-how and capacity to plan for and make decisions regarding mass transportation; (2) a similar and related lack of institutional capacity to manage mass transportation development; and (3) a shortage of investment finance capacities.

Urban Transport: ‘last mile connectivity

Another approach to shifting passengers to more socially and environmentally sustainable modes of transportation would be to develop and deepen ‘last mile connectivity.’ This would involve developing an array of information and communications technology (ICT)-facilitated seamless mobility service to facilitate and strengthen ‘last mile connectivity’ (ie, the beginning and ending portions of passenger journeys which rely on different forms of public transportation for the bulk of the journey, but on individual motorized transportation for the initial or final stretches of individual journeys – that is, for ‘the last mile’). This could be done by developing markets and light infrastructures for the ‘sharing’ of cars, vans, taxis and bicycles, and through greater reliance on ICT-enabled ‘paratransit’ (which displaces the need to rely on physical mobility for different forms of work and communications).

Indeed, given the already high levels of ICT penetration in Africa, ‘last mile connectivity’ approaches actually hold enormous ready-to-tap potential (somewhat in contrast to the bus reforms and mass transit options mentioned above, which required significantly improved national and local governance as well as large investment requirements).

Freight transport: trucking shipment consolidation

In the freight/cargo segment of the transportation sector, another approach would encourage shipment consolidation in trucks in order to reduce VKT (vehicle kilometers travelled). This might be achieved through the use of ICT in order to consolidate shipments at an earlier point in the logistics chain, and to minimize empty ‘backhauling.’ Figure 2. Illustrates this process.

[1] Data from the International Energy Agency.

(Please continue reading the above text on the attached preliminary summary of the paper, for use of the Network only)

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Roger Gorham (Summary)

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