Calculating the potential climate value of Non-Motorised Transport projects in African cities

Transport Climate change mitigation Urban planning Africa

In most African cities, populations are increasing rapidly and the reliance on Non-Motorised Transport (NMT) is high, but dedicated NMT infrastructure remains very limited. Private vehicle use is rising steadily, congesting these cities, poisoning the air and killing NMT users at unacceptably high rates.

African cities have a dire need for substantial NMT infrastructure investment, but municipal budgets are constrained and there are many other needs that must be met. Trying to rationalise the allocation of resources in such constrained environments highlights the importance of evidence-based decision-making, to maximise the societal benefit from every municipal investment.

Historically, it has been difficult to demonstrate the benefit of NMT, due to the diversity and complexity of its positive impacts, and in many countries that remains true. The ability of NMT to mitigate climate change has remained difficult to measure, in large part due to the lack of appropriate tools. The same was true for the measurement of the health value of NMT before the advent of tools such as Health Economic Assessment Tools (HEAT). The climate value of investments and infrastructure in cities is becoming critically important, but to date, has been a woefully neglected and underfunded sector under climate finance programmes.

Determining the climate value of NMT is a relatively new concept and the research is still in a nascent stage. One of the first studies to estimate a climate value of NMT calculated that the 3.3% mode share of cycling in Bogotá, Colombia has a climate value of 55,115 avoided tons of CO2 per year. To attempt a similar climate valuation of NMT projects in African cities, a specific Project Assessment Tool (PAT) was developed.

Before applying PAT in a data-scarce, African city, a data-rich, expost pilot case was conducted in Bogotá, to validate the tool. NMT projects or scenarios in two African cities, Cape Town, South Africa and Nairobi, Kenya were tested in PAT to determine their potential climate value. To overcome a lack of data necessary to accurately model the changes in mode share resulting corresponding to the scenarios, an opinion poll was disseminated to local experts within the field requesting estimations based on a description of the future scenario being tested.

A scenario that was tested across all three cities was a 370km NMT network similar to Bogotá’s CicloRuta system. PAT revealed that the climate value of a network like this could be substantial in both Cape Town and Nairobi. Transport planners at the City of Cape Town predict that cycling mode share would increase from 1% to 8%, saving 3.26 million tons of CO2 over the 15-year life of the project.

Experts in Nairobi expect a network like this to be able to not only stem the current decrease in pedestrian mode share but increase it 3% higher to 43%. The avoided trips in cars and minibus taxis could contribute to petrol usage being 7% lower across the city. PAT was also used to evaluate the social benefit-cost ratio of these two scenarios, returning ratios of 16.3 and 12.6 for Cape Town and Nairobi respectively.

The climate value of NMT in African cities is considerable and should not be taken for granted. It presents an incredible opportunity for African cities, and the global community, to achieve our collective climate-related goals, and should be integrated into climate finance initiatives in order to spur systemic investment.

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