High Volume Transport

Vital transport research to ensure accessible, affordable and climate friendly transport for all.

HVT COP28 session on finding the way to greener transport infrastructures

60 global pledges were made to double green transport by 2030 at COP28, signalling a real commitment to a more sustainable future. The pledges, driven by The SLOCAT Partnership on Sustainable, Low Carbon Transport, were echoed in HVT’s side event on 7th December – Finding the way to greener infrastructures – held at the newly opened Dubai campus of Birmingham University.

Transport infrastructure is the backbone to strong economies and communities, but these infrastructures are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, particularly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), which often experience the most severe of weather events.

And transport is not only feeling the force of climate change but is contributing to it – responsible for almost a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions and accounting for about 22% of worldwide CO2 emissions. LMICs are traditionally not the main contributors to transport carbon emissions, but as their economies grow, so do their potential emissions.

The session on 7th December explored ways to develop greener transport infrastructures for LMICs and drew on key research from HVT to discuss ways in which LMICs can build infrastructure that is greener and resilient for all modes of transport.

In the first part of the session, chaired by transport expert Holger Dalkmann, our panel delivered their insights into adaptation and mitigation changes needed for road, rail, walking, cycling and public transport to meet the pressures of climate change. Their presentations drew on the latest research from HVT, starting with independent consultant Gail Jennings, who spoke about the challenges facing people who rely on walking as their primary mode of mobility. While it benefits the environment, walking can limit people, especially when public transport is expensive, she said. We need to find a balance between ensuring there is sufficient motorised transport to meet people’s needs while protecting the environment from fuel pollution.

Tim Durant of SLR and Obafemi Shitta-Bey of the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA) then presented ‘Towards greener transport infrastructures: the Lagos strategic transport masterplan, transitions in informal transport and design of inclusive interchanges’, describing the challenges of transforming the chaotic transport system of Nigeria’s capital city.

TRL’s Andrew Otto led the team updating Road Note 31, ‘A guide to the structural design of bitumen surfaced roads in tropical and sub-tropical countries’ and joined the panel online to outline the key updates in the latest, fifth edition which address issues caused directly by climate change. These include: guidance on rigid/concrete pavements; pavement rehabilitation; climate resilience involving surfacings and drainage, and enhancement of further chapters including traffic and materials. The guide has become an essential resource and formed the basis of many countries’ road manuals.

Henry Kerali, former country director at the World Bank then presented the latest update from HDM4: Climate change impacts. He explained how the latest guide will predicts road network performance and bring benefits to users in terms of decrease in accident numbers and savings in operating costs. The update is also due to include data on GHG emissions, new fuel and vehicle technologies and new road surfaces, including the use of recycled materials.

Clive Roberts, director of the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education then made the case for an increased focus on rail travel in LICs, stressing its importance in decarbonising the transport sector. Independently powered railways are key, he said, so we need to find the kind of future power which could replace existing diesel fleets and provide a decarbonised solution going forward.

During the discussion which followed the presentations, the panel were joined by Anjali Mahendra of WRI who spoke to some of the key actions cities can take to address adaptation and gave examples of how transport should be integrated into those actions. She addressed issues of adaptation and inequities in the informal sector, both in terms of housing developments and informal transport.

Romanus Opiyo of the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) Africa answered questions around scaling up action on mitigating and adapting transport to climate change. Outlining the reasons why transport infrastructure needs to become climate resilient, he spoke about degradation of materials and structures, increased costs and disrupted transport routes as just a few of the consequences of extreme weather events caused by global heating. Referring to his HVT research, he highlighted the link between inclusiveness and resilience and why is it central to combine those issues.

The session concluded with a lively discussion involving the entire panel, as they addressed the most pressing issues on our agenda: the changes that need to happen to create greener, inclusive, resilient transport infrastructures.