How green transport can be a catalyst for economic development and growth

The global shift towards a greener economy continues to be a priority to mitigate the risks of climate change and other environmentally threatening conditions. However, developing countries remain challenged with the lack of basic public infrastructure such as transportation infrastructure. In particular, green transportation infrastructure, which can ensure a sustainable future for all.

What is green transport?

Green transport, also known as sustainable transport, refers to modes of transportation that do not negatively impact the environment such as fossil fuels. Green transport modes rely on renewable energy sources such as wind and solar energy, hydroelectric, and biomass, among others. 

The role of green transport in the economy

The transport sector plays a critical role in the development and growth of the economy. This is because adequate transport infrastructure, systems and networks offer access to basic services and goods. It increases connectivity and integration between rural, urban and international markets, which, in turn, improves economic activity. And, subsequently stimulates job creation, which opens up employment opportunities in South Africa.

The transition to green transport will not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also increase the efficiency of transport systems and road safety. It can also significantly transform public transport in South Africa and other African countries; however, the greatest challenge is acquiring sufficient funding to make infrastructure for development possible. 

SA’s green transport strategy

The Department of Transport has found that emissions from the transport sector in South Africa account for 10.8 percent of the country’s total Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG). Additionally, there are indirect emissions from the production, refining and transportation of fuels. 

The findings also indicate that transport is a major contributor to air pollution and emissions, which contribute to the brown haze in urban centres across the country. These pollutants have a significant impact on human health. To ensure a positive impact on human health, land resources, water quality, air quality and biodiversity, the development of green infrastructure needs to be prioritised. 

Due to this demand, the department created a strategy to facilitate the development of green transport in South Africa and encourage sustainable post-development public infrastructure management and maintenance. The Green Transport Strategy has identified mitigation measures to address the effects of climate change. 

These measures are also designed to help SA meet the requirements stipulated in the Paris Agreement, as follows;

  • Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, recognising that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.
  • Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production.
  • Making financial support consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development. 

SA plans to achieve sustainable development by developing regulatory instruments (particularly for vehicle emissions), restructure taxes and provide incentives to reduce costs where possible and prioritise infrastructure development as well as educate and stimulate awareness to accelerate behavioural change in relation to green transport infrastructure.  

The role of DBSA in green transport infrastructure

The DBSA follows a holistic approach of infrastructure development by addressing the entire infrastructure value chain and focusing on key long-term strategic interventions. Our offering spans planning, project preparation, financing, and implementation support for socio-economic infrastructure. 

Our function within the transport sector is to pursue infrastructure investment for projects aimed at the development of bridges, roads, bus stations, railways, terminals, airports, seaports, border ports and more. We prioritise the development of sustainable public transport networks to ensure safe, efficient and green transport systems for all communities across the country and Africa. 

We’re also committed to supporting the South African government in its quest to meet the goals stipulated in the National Transport Master Plan 2050, the Public Transport Strategy and the Green Transport Strategy. 

Final thoughts

The transport sector is a crucial driver for economic growth and social development, as well as a fundamental component of the country’s competitiveness in global markets. Channelling investments towards the development of green transport infrastructure ensures that Africa is addressing the challenges of climate change and improving the lives of the people living in the continent.