January 18, 2013

$175 Billion Pledge for Sustainable Transport: Game Changer or More of the Same?

by Michael Replogle

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January 17, 2013 – At the June 2012 Rio+20 Global Sustainable Development Summit, the world’s 8 largest multilateral development banks (MDBs) pledged USD$175 billion for more sustainable transport over the next decade, committing to annual reporting and development of common definitions, targets and indicators for sustainable transport. In a conference today at the World Bank, a panel of senior MDB executives and civil society representatives debated what it would take to ensure this pledge delivers real progress on sustainable transport, rather than dressing up more of the same.

Marc Juhel of the World Bank explained that the $175 billion pledge is not new money, but is the anticipated transport spending of the 8 MDBs over the next decade, which has been pledged to support more sustainable transport. He noted that urban transport had been put on the agenda of the G20 at their June 2012 Mexico City meeting, an important breakthrough and another signal that sustainable transport is coming into the mainstream. He emphasized that the World Bank is committed to coordinate project investments with complementary policies and capacity-building to successfully advance sustainable transport.

“This pledge is a breakthrough, but to succeed, it will require timely progress in measuring, monitoring, and reporting by MDBs on sustainable transport indicators, with use of these indicators in internal management reward systems,” said Michael Replogle of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy. “Increased transparency will be vital. It will also be important for MDBs find new ways to bundle sustainable transport projects to leverage external financing and to help clients focus on measurably improving existing transport system operations and performance.”

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Robert Guild of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) highlighted the Sustainable Transport Appraisal Rating (STAR) initiative, which is being tested as a framework to evaluate transport projects to advance ADB’s Sustainable Transport Initiative which is shifting funding away from building new expressways and boosting spending on urban transport, green freight, and more sustainable road projects. He emphasized ADB’s focus on poverty alleviation with green growth.

Jorge Kogan of the Corporación Andina de Fomento (CAF), the Latin American Development Bank, discussed the value of CAF’s Mobility Observatory, which fosters development, maintenance, and dissemination of key indicators of transport system performance in 25 metropolitan areas across Latin America, providing a foundation for better decision making.

Nestor Roa of the Inter-American Development Bank noted that MDBs ultimately had to be responsive to the requests of member developing countries and that many still request large-scale conventional road investments, not non-motorized or more sustainable transport. He challenged the audience and civil society organizations to strengthen the call for sustainable transport, rather than business-as-usual projects favoring rapid unmanaged motorization.

Holger Dalkman of EMBARQ focused on the need to create a new financing window for sustainable transport, linking climate and development finance. Cornie Huizenga spoke about how the MDB commitment laid a foundation for new consideration of sustainable transport finance in global climate policy and sustainable development discussions.

The Transforming Transportation Conference on January 17-18, 2012, was organized by the World Bank and EMBARQ, in partnership with ITDP, Clean Air Asia, the ADB, IDB, and Partnership on Sustainable Low Carbon Transport.

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