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Worldwide emissions of carbon dioxide are increasing faster in the transport sector than any other, and fastest of all in developing countries, according to a new report from the Pew Centre on Global Climate Change.

The report urges developing countries to introduce policies to encourage sustainable transport, saying that “policy and investment decisions with far-reaching implications must be made quickly, or the consequences could be catastrophic — economically, environmentally, and socially”.

“If current motorisation patterns prevail, there will be another 700 million vehicles globally over the next two to three decades,” says Eileen Claussen, director of the Pew Centre, a leading climate change policy research organisation based in Washington DC.

The main problem, says the report, is an explosion in the number of cars and trucks, leading to massive increases in greenhouse gas emissions. Transport-related carbon dioxide emissions grew at an annual rate of 4 per cent over the last 20 years in developing countries, compared with 2.7 per cent globally.

The report acknowledges that this increase in emissions is unavoidable in most developing countries, because of rapid population growth and urbanisation, for example. But it suggests a number of policy options that could help slow the growth in emissions.

“Our objective is not to prevent developing countries from enjoying the convenience of personal transportation,” says Claussen. “Rather, the goal must be to make sure that [these countries] develop transportation systems that are climate-friendly at the same time that they meet the needs of the people who use them”.

Key strategies include increasing the cost of using conventional private cars, and enhancing the quality and choice of alternative transport. Improving motor vehicle technologies and promoting ‘car sharing’ were identified as other possible approaches. Many of these options have local as well as global benefits, including reduced air pollution, less traffic congestion and lowered costs of road infrastructure, says the report.

Based on case studies conducted in Chile, China, India and South Africa, the report recognises that the problems faced by developing countries are not uniform; for example, car ownership is not necessarily related to income. As a result, it says, a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution is not feasible. It also acknowledges that increasing local institutional capacity will be a critical factor.

But the authors stress that acting now, and giving higher priority to climate-relevant transport policies, is essential to break the link between economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries.

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Link to ‘Transportation in Developing Countries: An Overview of Greenhouse Gas Reduction Strategies’
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