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World Bank to focus on reducing short-lived climate pollutants; transport projects

Aggregation of SLCP project activities into typologies. Click to enlarge.

A new report prepared by the World Bank at the request of the G8 identifies ways that the World Bank can do more through its projects to reduce the emission of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs): black carbon, methane, tropospheric ozone, and fluorinated gases known as HFCs.

The review, “Integration of Short-Lived Climate Pollutants in World Bank Activities,” highlights ways the Bank’s investments are already reducing SLCPs and shows where potential exists for even greater reduction. It discusses a wide range of SLCP-reducing activities, including:

  • bus and rail-based transport systems, which can reduce black carbon emissions and have strong, local public health co-benefits;

  • solid waste collection and disposal methods that can reduce methane emissions; improved cookstoves and kilns that can reduce black carbon; and

  • rice irrigation and wastewater management that can lower methane emissions and have global benefits to agricultural productivity and health.

  • As a development institution focused on reducing poverty and boosting shared prosperity, the World Bank is working in many countries that suffer from a lack of basic services such as waste management, transportation, and access to modern energy. Addressing these development challenges often has an impact on the emission of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) among them methane and tropospheric ozone, black carbon (BC), and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). While the development benefits are the primary focus of the World Bank's support to these projects, they also provide an opportunity to realize climate benefits as well as air quality, health, and agricultural co-benefits, by reducing SLCP emissions.

    This review of the World Bank’s portfolio highlights the efficacy of integrating SLCP mitigation in development projects. Over the six-year period of the review (FY2007-2012), 7.7 percent of IBRD/IDA commitments (approximately US$18 billion) were on SLCP-relevant activities in energy, transport, roads, agriculture, forestry, and urban waste and wastewater. Going forward, the goal will be to transform as much of the SLCP-relevant activities as possible into SLCP-reducing activities.

    —Akbar et al.

    According to the United Nations Environment Programme, fast action to reduce SLCPs could avoid an estimated 2.4 million premature deaths from outdoor air pollution annually by 2030 and avoid about 32 million tons of crop loss per year. It could also have a direct impact on climate change, with the potential to reduce the warming expected by 2050 by up to 0.5 degrees Celsius.

    Transportation projects. Transport projects include urban transport projects; urban road projects spanning their construction, rehabilitation, maintenance, upgrading, and expansion; and long-distance rail projects. World Bank SLCP-reducing project activities include passenger and freight rail; bus rapid transit (BRT) systems; metro rail transit (MRT) systems; augmentation or provision of public bus fleets; and the promotion of non-motorized transportation systems, such as bicycle routes and parking facilities.

    The report notes that a significant opportunity for SLCP reduction is available through addressing fleets of freight transport vehicles. The World Bank is beginning to use this opportunity for example, through green freight projects that aim to improve fuel efficiency of transport fleets and provide black carbon reductions as a co-benefit. However, green freight is not a major part of the World Bank’s lending portfolio.

    In general, transport projects can help improve traffic flow and offer numerous opportunities to address SLCP emissions. Interventions in urban areas provide opportunities for delivering SLCP reductions with significant local health benefits given the larger population exposure. While it is approximated that 40 percent of overall transport sector lending is on activities that are SLCP relevant, more data and analysis are required to determine the fraction that may be SLCP reducing. Given the large potential in transport sector, the World Bank is committed to increasing the share of SLCP-reducing activities as a fraction of SLCP-relevant activities. This will entail providing incentives to reduce SLCP emissions in projects up to a point where emission reduction benefits balance development costs.

    Long-distance rail projects are an increasing part of the World Bank’s portfolio, offsetting traffic and freight that would otherwise be carried mainly by road transport. This has significant benefits in terms of SLCPs and GHGs. The Shi-Zheng Railway Project, for example, estimates CO2 emissions from equivalent road freight transport to be approximately 400 percent higher than when carried by rail. Similarly, GHG analysis for the Dedicated Freight Corridor project in India showed that it emits 2.25 times less GHGs than the baseline over a 30-year time frame, where the bulk of the difference comes from the decreased use of diesel fuel, which is also responsible for BC emissions.

    —Akbar et al.



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