This week the UN’s World Habitat Day on 4 October had me reflect on the state of transportation in my region.
Of course, Habitat Day is more about shelter as a basic right for all, but this year’s theme does address more than that: Accelerating urban action for a carbon-free world.
According to the UN, cities are responsible for some 70% of global carbon dioxide emissions with transport, buildings, energy and waste management accounting for the bulk of urban greenhouse gas emissions.
The report Energy efficiency of building technologies and climate change: a case study of carbon sequestration in Migori county, Kenya (Robert Sangori, 2020) states that with rapid urbanisation, the housing sector is increasingly becoming one of the major contributors to global climate impact as seen from the use of construction materials which have high embodied energy.
It proposes that low embodied-energy materials such as Interlocking Stabilised Soil Blocks can cut greenhouse gas emissions up to 75% compared to burnt bricks.
We know cities across the world are endowed with huge untapped renewable energy potentials. This includes renewable resources like solar, organic waste, and in some cases wind energy.
In sub-Saharan Africa, solar energy could provide up to 70% of a city’s energy needs. Decentralised energy options like solar rooftop installations and small wind turbines could also be exploited to generate energy for local use at the municipal or household level.
Municipalities can also generate their own electricity using locally available renewable resources like municipal waste, small hydropower, and wind. The options are many and only limited by outdated regulations and funding.
Even as regulation and legislation tread cautiously to catch up with trends, we are seeing movement on our cities’ roads.
As cities become more populous, the levels of carbon emissions from public, private and commercial transportation increase exponentially. It presents a danger to us all. But help is at hand.
October is Mobility Month in Africa and, in my opinion, this fits neatly into World Habitat Day as our lives revolve around getting from A (usually your home) to B (mostly a place of doing business).
In the words of Michelle Defreese, the senior green growth officer at the Global Green Growth Institute, Rwanda Programme: “African cities are surging in terms of population growth, increased purchasing power, as well as inequality. All these necessitate urgent action to transform mobility in African cities.”
Defreese advises that the focus must include improved safety and accessibility for pedestrians, continuous bicycle lanes, improved public transport and adoption of electric vehicles. She emphasises that all these options present opportunities to reduce air pollution and increase accessibility for all road users without heavy reliance on privately owned vehicles.
Knowing how inadequate our public transport systems are in getting people from A to B with minimal emissions safely, I believe this is where the greatest impact lies.
I invite you to find out more on this topic and catch up on what’s happening in the transport and mobility space today and tomorrow at Smarter Mobility Africa.
Until next week.
Editor, ESI Africa