How China Can Cut its Road Transportation Emissions by 95%
WRI analysis finds that China can cut its road transportation emissions by up to 95% over the next 40 years while also improving air quality.

How China Can Cut its Road Transportation Emissions by 95%

By Lulu Xue and Daizong Liu | Originally published by World Resources Institute on 12 July 2022

Cover Image by: SeanPavonePhoto/iStock

The world's ability to overcome the climate change challenge hinges, in part, on what happens on China's roads.

China's cars, buses, trucks, shipping and other transport generated 828 million tonnes of greenhouse gases in 2014. That's almost the equivalent of the EU and UK's transport emissions combined. The country accounted for 11% of the worlds transportation emissions in 2018 — second only to the United States, which produced 21% of the total.

And unlike the generally declining trends seen in emissions from power and industry, transport emissions are rising in China and other countries. If current trends continue, China will have the most road freight activity in the world by 2050. China and India combined will experience the most rapid growth in car ownership — 6 times greater than in 2015.

But there is also major opportunity for decarbonization: Unlike aviation and maritime shipping, where immature technologies and high abatement costs limit potential emissions reductions, technology breakthroughs such as electric powertrains and hydrogen fuel cells already exist for road transport. Combined with structural changes that alter the shape of the vehicle fleet, 

Decarbonizing China's Road Transport

China's national climate plan calls for carbon dioxide emissions to peak in 2030 and for the country to become carbon-neutral by 2060. WRI evaluated possible pathways to decarbonize China's road transport sector, as well as the cost-effectiveness of different decarbonization policies and their effects on air pollution.

We found that if China implements its stated national policies — such as the Action Plan for Carbon Dioxide Peaking Before 2030NEV Industrial Development Plan 2021-2035 and the Technology Roadmap for Energy-Saving and New Energy Vehicles 2.0 — the country's road transport emissions could peak before 2030 and petroleum consumption before 2027. If the country goes even further through structural change policies — including increasing vehicle occupancy and shifting from private cars and trucks to low-emitting modes like buses and freight railways — it would advance the peaking timeline to 2025 for GHG emissions and 2024 for petroleum consumption.

Over the long-term, we found China can reduce road transport emissions in 2060 by 50-95% compared to 2020 under several scenarios. Specifically, if China implements the policies highlighted above, its road transport emissions could decline 50% in 2060 from 2020 levels. If the country pushes through radical shifts in vehicle technologies and travel patterns, emissions could drop by as much 93-95% in 2060 compared to 2020 levels, nearly realizing China's 2060 carbon-neutrality commitment.

These emissions reductions would come with significant co-benefits, such as reduced air pollution. Chinese cities have some of the worst air pollution in the world, and in Shenzhen and Beijing, transportation has become the largest source of air pollutant (PM2.5). Improving the air quality can reduce premature deaths as well as the incidence of heart, respiratory and nervous diseases.

China's road transport emissions under different scenarios, 2020-2060

3 Ways to Achieve Deep Decarbonization in China's Road Transport Sector

To achieve the largest emissions-reduction potential of 95% by 2060 — what we call the deep decarbonization scenario — three measures are critical:

  1. Vehicle electrification and clean power — including battery electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles — have the largest decarbonization potential, contributing 48% of the cumulative GHG emissions reductions compared to the baseline business as usual scenario. If the power and hydrogen-related sectors get significantly greener, following existing roadmaps outlined by the national government and industrial associations, emissions reductions from vehicle electrification could increase even more, to 60%.
  2. Structural changes — including shifting from private cars to buses and improving vehicle occupancy — have the second-largest mitigation potential and can cut cumulative road transport emissions by 23% by 2060. In the near-term, from 2020 to 2035, structural changes have the largest mitigation potential because vehicle electrification is not likely to reach major tipping points during this timeframe, particularly among heavy-duty trucks.
  3. Vehicle fuel-efficiency improvements can generate an additional 17% of cumulative emissions reductions from 2020 to 2060.
Passengers board an electric public transit bus in Shanghai, China
Passengers in the Hongkou District of Shanghai, China board an electric bus. New electric technology can help China decarbonize its transportation sector and achieve its national climate plan. Photo by SCQBJ-JZ/iStock

Ultimately, for China to achieve its carbon-neutrality goal, it must make its policies more ambitious. For vehicle electrification, zero-emission vehicles need to represent 100% of passenger car sales by 2035 and 100% of heavy-duty truck sales by 2050. Structurally, China needs to achieve a 75-85% green transport mode share for passenger transport (including bikes, walking and public transport) and 60% low-emitting mode share for freight transport (including railway and water navigation) by 2060.

Potential emissions reductions in China's road transport sector, 2020-2060

Unlocking the Potential of Freight

Decarbonizing road freight could yield more than double the emissions reductions of passenger transport from 2020 to 2060. But this requires special attention to policies and technologies.

Policymakers need to tackle the hard-to-abate truck sector, including long-haul, heavy-duty and refrigerated trucks. Current zero-emission vehicle technologies are not only more expensive than diesel vehicles, but also lack the charging infrastructure, battery ranges and vehicle durability to support long-haul operations. In addition to advancing and promoting these technologies, long-haul freight could be shifted to railways and waterways.

Whether liquefied natural gas (LNG) trucks should be treated as a viable decarbonization solution is also worthy of further scrutiny. LNG trucks are increasingly being adopted in China, with the government requiring zero-emission vehicles and natural gas vehicles to collectively represent 40% of annual vehicle sales by 2030. However, our analysis shows that although the CO2 emissions from an LNG heavy-duty truck are 20% lower than those from a diesel truck, the total GHG emissions-reduction potential of an LNG truck is less significant due to methane leakage.

China Will Need Significant Low-Carbon Investments to Reduce its Transport Emissions

Our analysis shows that decarbonizing China's road transport sector would require CNY 39-83 trillion ($5.9- 12.6 trillion) in investments, cumulatively, from 2020 to 2060. The investment demand is the largest from now until 2035, but will steadily decline over time. Across all decarbonization scenarios, transport will require either the largest- or second-largest investment, following the power sector.

Structural changes are the least expensive of these costs. Smaller vehicle fleet sizes, for example, reduce needed investments in power as well as in vehicle and charging infrastructure. As a result, in the two scenarios that would achieve the greatest possible emissions reduction of 93-95% compared to 2020 levels, the average abatement cost of the deep decarbonization scenario is around half the cost of the deep electrification scenario, due to an associated smaller vehicle fleet.

Low-carbon investments needed to decarbonize China's road transport, 2020-2060

China's Low-Carbon Transport Strategy Has Global Implications

As both an example and because of its scale, China's transport decarbonization strategy has important repercussions domestically and globally. WRI's analysis indicates that getting close to carbon neutrality in road transport is possible, along with substantial air quality co-benefits but only with significant changes to current policies.

To limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) and avert the worst impacts of climate change, research shows that global transport emissions must peak between 2020 and 2025. China's road transport sector needs explicit sectoral emissions-reduction targets, actionable strategies and cost-effective policies to get on track.

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Electric Bus Commitments in Mid-sized Colombian Cities Are Adding to National Momentum

To build on existing political will and bus infrastructure, the Accelerating Electric Bus Adoption in Colombia project, funded by UK PACT Colombia and executed by WRI Mexico and Clean Energy Works, is providing direct technical assistance in bus electrification to three mid-sized cities in Colombia – Monteria, Neiva and Pasto – and helping coordinate among actors at the national level to support these cities’ goals for more sustainable, resilient transport.

Electric Bus Commitments in Mid-sized Colombian Cities Are Adding to National Momentum

By  and  | Originally published on TheCityFix - a blog by the World Resources Institute - on July 7, 2022   

Transmilenio buses at a depot in Colombia, where three cities are working toward electric buses as a catalyst for a more resilient and equitable transport system. Photo by Daniel Cano

Cities are increasingly trying to discern what post-pandemic resilience will look like, especially in terms of mobility and public transport. And in Colombia, cities are known for their innovations in public transport systems — like Bogotá’s bus rapid transport and Medellín’s Metrocable.

In February 2022, WRI and partners gathered over 50 stakeholders across Colombia in Bogotá for a workshop that pushed participants to discuss themes ranging from financing to existing laws that affect electric bus procurement and operations. Attendees from government, financial institutions, public institutions, academia and more talked about obstacles that have hindered electric bus procurement in the past, including regulation challenges, fleet financing, legal provisions, coordination and technical capacity. The conversations focused on national-level challenges and potential solutions, bringing in knowledge from across the country.

Drawing insights from this workshop and turning the focus from national to local, a team from WRI and the Colombian Ministry of Transport visited Monteria, Neiva and Pasto to present the proposed electrification strategy. In each city, we spoke with the mayor’s office, secretaries, operators and civil society representatives about our analyses around charging, route optimization, finance and environmental impact for their context. We had found that each city had their own challenges in finding suitable places for charging infrastructure, modifying bus routes to accommodate charging time, and financing baseline operations in the wake of COVID-19. In Monteria and Pasto, we were able to visit the existing bus depots, guided by the bus operators, and experience firsthand the bus routes that would be transitioned to electric.

Conversations with the bus operators also revealed some of the challenges these cities have faced during the pandemic – in particular, loss of bus ridership. In Monteria, ridership dipped so low that two operators, Sinu Movil and Monteria Movil, merged their fleets to capitalize on ridership and cut financial losses. As public transport fleets try to bring riders back and compete with other modes, like motorcycle taxis, electric buses can offer residents a safe, zero-emission, comfortable option. While electric buses may be more expensive up front, in collaboration with Clean Energy Works, WRI was able to seek out both public and private financing and co-financing opportunities for the cities. Additionally, we explored various business models in each city, with financing models to back up our recommendations that delved into both capital and operating costs.

In both Pasto and Neiva, city officials committed to pursuing electric bus procurement recommendations. An immediate and important next step for the cities is to identify funding opportunities and financial assistance for the procurements, which was initiated through the process with Clean Energy Works. In March, the WRI team returned to Pasto and Neiva to host framing workshops focused on setting goals, identifying impacts and risks, and creating a stakeholder map to further assist the cities.

The team was also able to visit a new state-of-the-art electric bus depot in Bogotá to see how the electric bus rollout is going there. Based on conversations with city stakeholders, public transport systems there were similarly crippled by COVID-19. So far, COVID-19 relief packages in Colombia have focused on providing basic needs rather than expanding transport. Despite this, the Transmilenio system in Bogotá has grown its bus fleet to 2300 buses, 655 of which were electric in February 2022, and has continued to innovate and expand.

The Transmilenio electric buses are equipped with technology to promote public safety; each bus has seven video cameras with a live feed, so if there are any incidents, the driver will be notified in real time. One of the benefits of electric bus procurement is that cities see this as an opportunity to modernize their public transport systems. In the cities we visited, this included updates like air conditioning, route and service improvements, and safety improvements such as security cameras and better 360-degree vision for drivers.

Our visit to Bogotá showed the promise of electric buses, and our work with Monteria, Neiva and Pasto showed the willingness among Colombia’s smaller cities to follow in this path. These cities are keen to modernize their transport systems to be more resilient and sustainable, and they see electric buses as a catalyst for a more resilient and equitable transport system.

Sarah Cassius is an Electric Mobility Research Analyst at WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities.

Lidia Henderson is an Electric Mobility Research Associate at WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities.

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6 Ways to Design Safer School Zones: Lessons from Mumbai
In October 2021, WRI India, under the Bloomberg Initiative for Global Road Safety and in partnership with the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, Mumbai Traffic Police, and the Christ Church School, implemented a safer school zone in the Byculla neighborhood in Mumbai. The design of this school zone was developed with students to support their needs, likes and aspirations for an improved experience as they go back to school. Their participation in the transformation was critical to empowering them to bring about the changes they want to see. 

6 Ways to Design Safer School Zones: Lessons from Mumbai

By  and  | World Resources Institute (WRI) | Originally posted on May 30, 2022   

A new safe school zone in Mumbai was co-developed with students to support their needs, likes and aspirations for an improved experience as they go back to school. All photos by WRI India

As education is the right of every child, so is safe access to schools. As schools in India reopen after nearly two years of online education, it is important to reexamine how children access schools. Data suggests that every year, more than 30 children die due to road traffic crashes on Indian streets, and post-pandemic commutes may be even more motorized than in the past.

Identifying road traffic crash hotspots around schools can not only prevent injuries and deaths but encourage more sustainable mobility options and improve the experience of all pedestrians. Children are a kind of indicator species; if we design our cities to be safer for children, they become safer for everyone. Accelerating behavior change from personal vehicles dependency to walking, cycling and using streets as public spaces is an important step to make cities thrive for everyone.

In October 2021, WRI India, under the Bloomberg Initiative for Global Road Safety and in partnership with the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, Mumbai Traffic Police, and the Christ Church School, implemented a safer school zone in the Byculla neighborhood in Mumbai. The design of this school zone was developed with students to support their needs, likes and aspirations for an improved experience as they go back to school. Their participation in the transformation was critical to empowering them to bring about the changes they want to see. 

Below, we illustrate the six school zone design elements used, their implementation using tactical urbanism, and their impact on children and other street users’ experiences during the trial period.

1. Delineation of School Zones

School zones in our context mainly refer to the area from outside a school’s entrance to the nearest public transport stop. The zones ensure that students feel safe and confident walking to school. Those coming from further away can be dropped off by parents at the edge of the zone and walk the final stretch to school. For this pilot project in Mumbai, the school zone was defined as an approximately 200-meter stretch that provides foot and car access to the students of the Christ Church School and St. Agnes School. 

2. Road Markings and Signage

Road markings ensure a smooth and orderly flow of traffic. In this project, the start of the zone was depicted with signs on the road that said “School Zone” and “School Zone Ahead.” Other signs indicated pedestrian crossings, including “Slow Down” and “Stop” at appropriate locations such as intersections and crossings.

3. Vibrant Pedestrian Crossings

Vibrant pedestrian crossings are combined with the traditional zebra markings by using colorful patterns that increase awareness by street users. In this trial, the pedestrian crossing was drawn using paint directly outside the Christ Church School’s entrance. The vibrant colors help children identify areas to cross safely as well as alert motorists that they must stop and give way to pedestrians, especially school children.

4. Bulb-Outs

Bulb-outs are extensions to footpaths that help reduce the crossing distance of a street and limit waiting pedestrians’ exposure to moving vehicles. At this stretch, bulb-outs were provided at locations where children usually wait. These bulb-outs also help in reducing speeds on average by 2-8 kilometers per hour by narrowing the width of vehicle lanes.

5. Speed-Calming Measures

Speed-calming measures are essential at all locations where pedestrians are likely to encounter moving vehicles, especially at intersections that lack signals and crossings. As the speed of a vehicle increases, the driver’s field of vision narrows, making it harder for them to see small children or react to sudden events, like a child running into the street. Children generally have a limited understanding of speed, and their cognitive skills are also still developing. Speed-calming measures near Christ Church School and at the entrance of St. Agnes School helped reduce vehicle speeds by 17%.

6. Informative Footpaths

It is important to also consider how streets look from a child’s perspective to understand their pathways. In this school zone, the design included colorful pavement markings, guide strips on footpaths and simple road markings to enhance children’s experience on foot. The markings directed children to the school entrance and public spaces in the school zone. The guide strips delineated a clear walking zone on the footpath and directed children to safety with a colorful sign that read “Wait.”

Assessment of the Transformation and the Way Forward

120 people were surveyed before and during the trial. These included 40 children, 40 pedestrians, 20 local business operators and 20 motorists. The survey revealed that 41% of motorists stopped at the vibrant pedestrian crossing compared to 10% who stopped at a different, nearby crossing. 98% of users felt the street was safer during the trial than before, and 93% of children felt the street was more accessible.

The success of the Christ Church school zone trial helped to demonstrate to the authorities how small changes in street design around schools can significantly improve safety for children. It also helped the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai make a case for the permanent transformation of this street into a child-friendly school zone. This project has also led to the state of Maharashtra starting discourse around scaling up and introducing safer school zones in other cities across the state.

We hope these and other school safety projects can encourage more children to walk or cycle, which will help them adopt healthier, more active lifestyles, while also reducing carbon emissions.

This article originally appeared on

Rohit Tak is a Manager for Urban Transport and Road Safety at WRI India Ross Center for Sustainable Cities.

Lekshmy Hirandas is a Program Associate for Transport at WRI India Ross Center for Sustainable Cities.

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Chile, Mexico and Colombia Making Strides in Road Safety Legislation
The grave consequences of road traffic crashes are not a common theme in election campaigns. Nevertheless, the legislatures of Chile, Mexico and Colombia have recently advanced or are in the midst of debating valuable legislation to reduce traffic deaths and severe injuries resulting from road crashes. In all three countries, activists from civil society organizations and academia have played a significant role in moving such policies forward.

Chile, Mexico and Colombia Making Strides in Road Safety Legislation

By  and  | Published on May 19, 2022 in TheCityFix (a blog by the World Resources Institute's Ross Center for Sustainable Cities)

A version of this article was originally published in El Tiempo.

Recent advancements in road safety legislation in Chile, Mexico and Colombia are important steps in the right direction, though much more needs to be done. Photo by Dylan Passmore/Flickr

In 2018, Chile’s Parliament adjusted the Road Convivence Law, establishing a 50 kph (30 mph) speed limit for urban areas. This is common in most member countries of the OECD, but not in most middle- and low-income countries. The 50 kph speed limit is in line with recommendations by the World Health Organization and a cornerstone of the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety initiative, which aims for a 50% reduction in traffic fatalities between 2021 and 2030.

Currently, the Chilean government is asking parliament to approve the Automatic Control Center for Traffic Violations, Ley CATI. This would establish a central authority to implement and manage speed cameras and radars to enforce speed limits and shift driver behavior. In both cases – the 2018 law and this proposed legislation – there has been strong advocacy by multiple organizations promoting road safety and sustainable mobility, notably the Movimiento Contra el Exceso de Velocidad Letal and the Bicicultura movements. These groups were the backbone of a large coalition of mobility and health activists who were instrumental in persuading key congress members to become champions of these legislations. As of April 2022, the Ley CATI received urgency status by the new Chilean government to fast-track its approval in parliament.

In Mexico, the Congress approved a constitutional amendment in 2019 to establish safe mobility as a fundamental right and critical to equity and accessibility for all. Twenty three out of the 30 Mexican states have ratified the amendment. To put this new amendment into effect, the Senate passed the Safe Mobility Law, the first national legislation to advance road safety, which was previously a matter handled by the states (see the published law here). Like in Chile, a wide citizens’ movement advocated for these changes under the Coalición Movilidad Segura (“the Safe Mobility Coalition”), with key participation of various organizations and activist groups like Punto Céntrico, Reacciona por la Vida, and Bicitekas. WRI México has provided insights and support throughout the process as well.

Mexico’s national government is now in position to establish consistent nationwide speed limits, vehicle standards and licenses, and policies that prioritize vulnerable road users like pedestrians and cyclists. This new law creates a framework to advance road safety, as well as requirements to national, state and municipal authorities to consider road safety for all road users when designing roads. Most importantly, it establishes federal funding for road safety activities. This is expected to help the country massively reduce road fatalities.

In Colombia, two important road safety initiatives are in progress. The Julián Andrés law,  approved by Congress on May 18, requires that all road designs actively incoporate road safety aspects according to Safe System concepts, and that national vehicle regulations are in line with international standards. It also establishes 50 kph as the speed limit in urban areas, like the Chilean legislation. The debate in Congress was supported by Liga Contra la Violencia Vial and Conduce a 50 vive al 100, two civil society and academic groups. The law is named after Julián Andrés Gómez, a young cyclist – and avid fan of Colombian Tour de France 2019 champion Egan Bernal – who was killed by a truck driver when riding near his hometown of Zipaquirá.

The second piece of draft legislation in Colombia would see the country join the 1958 United Nations Agreement on Vehicle Standards, one of the global legal instruments of the UNECE World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations which has helped European and other countries advance common vehicle regulations. This is expected to help bridge a 20-year gap between local regulations and global advances in vehicle safety standards, improving the protection of both vehicle occupants and other road users by holding new vehicles to higher standards. As with any treaty, the legislation was submitted by the executive branch and is expected to be discussed promptly. In this case as well, advocacy by academic and civil society organizations were critical in pushing the issue forward. A group of 43 university professors and representatives of these organizations have now publicly endorsed the draft law. The first of four debates in Congress was completed in May 2022.

All these legislative achievements are steps in the right direction, but much more is needed. As Mexican journalist Héctor Zamarrón put it, these laws would provide an “aspiration and compass.” Concrete policies to advance road safety help establish it as an important issue and provide frameworks for action by national, regional and local authorities – and, often, funding. New legislation is essential to bringing about life-saving measures like lower speed limits, mechanisms for effectively enforcing speeding, and roads designed for vulnerable users, but it is important to ensure that such policy is followed by action.

Dario Hidalgo is Professor of Transport and Logistics at Universidad Javeirana in Bogotá.

Alejandro Schwedhelm is Urban Mobility Associate at WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities.

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‘Code Red for Humanity’: Sinking Indian Cities
The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report warns, “India will see increased heat waves and heavy rainfall events, while glaciers will melt further, along with more compound events from rising sea-levels like flooding.” 

‘Code Red for Humanity’: Sinking Indian Cities

By  and  | September 13, 2021 | Posted on TheCityFix by the World Resources Institute's Ross Center for Sustainable Cities

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report warns, “India will see increased heat waves and heavy rainfall events, while glaciers will melt further, along with more compound events from rising sea-levels like flooding.” The report further states that “unequivocal human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean, and land,” and “continued global warming is projected to further intensify the global water cycle, including its variability, global monsoon precipitation and the severity of wet and dry events.”

The principle of a warmer world is that more water will be evaporated, which will exacerbate droughts, and this enhanced water in the atmosphere will increase the amount of rain when it does rain. Extreme rainfall intensifies by 7% for each additional 1 degree Celsius of global heating, the IPCC report found. These findings have immense consequences for the urban centers of India, adding to the existing pressures on infrastructure in cities, including water supply and sanitation, stormwater drainage, flood protection and associated loss of life, livelihood and property.

Projections at 1.5°C, 2°C, 4°C global warming. Source: IPCC Report, 2021

Over the last two decades, there has already been a steady rise in extreme weather events in India, which has led to loss of life and property. Financial losses, for example, from the Kerala floods in 2018 are estimated at USD 3.56 billion (INR 27,000 crore) and Chennai flood losses in 2015 are estimated at around USD 3 billion (INR 22,000 crore).

Disasters causing damages of more than $1 billion, 1993-2018. Source: World Bank, EM-DAT: The Emergency Events Database — Université catholique de Louvain (UCL) — CRED, 2018

Climate Change and the Water Cycle

In terms of urban water challenges, the first key finding of this report is that “climate change is intensifying the natural water cycle. This brings more intense rainfall and associated flooding, as well as more intense drought in many regions.” Seasonal rainfall variability is expected to increase, with fewer days of rainfall alongside increased intensity of downpours. Further, human settlements in glacier-fed river basins are of particular concern in a hot world. Such areas will likely face flooding first, along with avalanches and landslides, and then experience water scarcity as glaciers shrink or disappear due to climate change.

According to the report, “new evidence seen of the effect of local land use and land cover change on heavy precipitation (with) a growing set of literature linking increases in heavy precipitation in urban centers to urbanization.” This has already been seen since 2015, with close to 100 million people exposed to extreme flooding events annually. Simultaneously, yearly average of drought-affected districts in India increased 13 times in this period, exposing 140.06 million people. Due to micro climatic changes caused by rapid urbanization, the pattern of extreme events such as flood-prone areas becoming drought-prone and vice-versa has changed in over 40% of Indian districts. Further evidence of rapid climate change was observed in Indian cities when a heavy monsoon hit Bihar, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand in July 2021, resulting in flooding and landslides.

Impact of climate change on Mumbai’s annual rainfall pattern in 2020. Source: Hindustan Times, 2020

Sinking Coasts

The IPCC report’s second key finding states that “the coastal areas will see continued sea level rise throughout the 21st century, contributing to more frequent and severe coastal flooding in low-lying areas and coastal erosion. Extreme sea level events that previously occurred once in 100 years could happen every year by the end of this century.”

India has one of the longest coastlines in Asia, at 7,500 kilometers. According to the 2011 census, this length includes over 486 urban centers that are home to almost 41.7 million residents (a larger population than Australia and New Zealand put together). Due to global warming, these coastal areas are projected to face a sea level rise of 0.1 -0.3 meters in the next two to three decades, according to the tool hosted on NASA’s Sea Level Portal. This tool shows that coastal cities such as Kochi, Mumbai, Chennai and Visakhapatnam will be impacted by sea level rise in varying degrees, from 0.57-0.82 meters in 2100.

Projected sea level increase around Mumbai by 2050 and 2100 under SSP2 – 4.5 and SSP5 – 8.5 scenario. Source: Nasa Sea Level Portal, 2021

Urban Heat Stress

The third key finding highlighted by the report states that rising temperature (crossing the global warming level of 1.5 degrees Celsius in the coming decades) coupled with more frequent, intense and long-lasting record-breaking temperatures are leading to increased adverse urban heat stress impacts such as mortality, negative mental health and reduced physical work capacity and motor-cognitive performances. Heat-related adverse health impacts are projected to increase with more frequent breaches of physiological limits related to heat tolerance. Climate change, in conjunction with other megatrends such as population growth and ageing, urbanization and socioeconomic development, will either exacerbate or ameliorate heat-related hazards. Urban temperatures are further enhanced by anthropogenic heat from vehicular transport and heat waste from buildings.

A report from The Lancet estimates that 1.7 million deaths worldwide in 2019 were linked to extreme heat and cold (356,000 were related to heat). India’s historically hot summers are being intensified by climate change, with deadly consequences. Severe heat waves in Indian cities could endanger the lives and health of people living in poorly ventilated, hot, crowded homes, especially for low-income urban slum dwellers. In 2010, the city of Ahmedabad in Gujarat state suffered a record-breaking heat wave that killed more than 1,344 people.

Why are cities the hotspots of global warming? Source: IPCC Report, 2021

Continue Reading:

Photo by Talukdar David/Shutterstock: The findings of the IPCC’s 2021 climate report have immense consequences for the urban centers of India.

Webinar: Build Back Better: Three Transformations for Clean Air
17 June 2020 - WRI Ross Center will bring together a panel of experts to lay out this new trajectory, looking across three key transformations that we need for clean air: in energy, food systems, and sustainable consumption and waste management and how these transformations are needed from a city´s perspective.
17 June 2020 - As factories and offices have shut down and people have stayed at home more in response to COVID-19 and lockdowns, air pollution has dropped around the world. People living in cities from Delhi to Los Angeles witnessed and even celebrated how long-obscured mountains appeared on the horizon as the particulate matter pollution decreased, and evidence from both ground monitors and satellites found significant drops in lung-damaging NOx.

But this crisis has also shown the long tail of air pollution-related health risks. Pollution didn’t go away in many places, even with the drop in economic activity. And pollution exposure over time has made thousands more vulnerable to complications from respiratory illnesses. Deteriorating air quality in the early days of opening up has also highlighted the fleeting, partial nature of this glimpse of clean air. Without setting ourselves on a new trajectory, we risk coming back to a world of even dirtier air and populations even more vulnerable to the impacts of air pollution.

WRI Ross Center will bring together a panel of experts to lay out this new trajectory, looking across three key transformations that we need for clean air: in energy, food systems, and sustainable consumption and waste management and how these transformations are needed from a city´s perspective. We will discuss the key leverage points for global shifts in trajectory, but track this back to an integrated agenda for cities, the places where pollution and people overlap most.

Event Details:

  • Date: June 18, 2020
  • Time: 9:00 AM - 10:00 AM EDT


  • Jessica SeddonGlobal Lead, Air Quality, WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities
  • Blas Perez HenriquezFounding Director, The California Global Energy, Water & Infrastructure Innovation Initiative, Stanford University
  • Tim SearchingerSenior Fellow, WRI; Research Scholar, Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University
  • Mathy StanislausInterim Director, Global Battery Alliance (World Economic Forum); Former Circular Economy Fellow, WRI
  • Carolina UrrutiaMinister of the Environment, City of Bogotá
  • Beatriz CardenasDirector, Air Quality, WRI México (moderator)


Street Transformations to Fight COVID-19: 3 Ways to Create Lasting Change
10 June 2020 - As the COVID-19 outbreak disrupts mobility worldwide, more and more cities are transforming their streets to increase space for walking and cycling and reduce car use during and after the pandemic.

These changes are designed to help people get around while maintaining social distancing, but they can also help cities transition to a more resilient, more connected, lower carbon future.

This is a good thing for people, cities and the planet. Besides shifting the balance of public space towards people rather than cars and increasing the safety of walking and cycling, these street transformations can bring broader benefits for climate change, public health, the local economy and inclusion.

For the concept of “complete streets,” the current moment may signal a tipping point, after years of building momentum. And for other potentially transformative urban solutions struggling to become mainstream, there is much to learn from this surge of cities adopting more expansive street redesigns.

But not all street redesigns are successful over the long term. From our extensive experience working to test, pilot and implement complete streets interventions in more than 20 cities in Brazil, we reflect on lessons learned about how to create impactful and lasting change. These experiences can help cities looking to implement similar solutions in response to COVID-19, as well as other projects looking to transform cities at scale.

Start Small for Big Impact

Small-scale, quick and affordable changes in street design can generate a large impact. Such “tactical urbanism,” which can entail simply painting new pedestrian areas, installing low-cost street furniture or creating parklets out of parking spaces, can serve as a catalyst for broader change. Coupled with community engagement – especially with those who live, work or use the street with frequency – it allows people to experience the new design before permanent changes are implemented, learn about the benefits and very often build strong support for further changes. Seeing is believing.

This strategy has proven effective for the implementation of complete streets projects across Brazil. Projects were executed faster because the changes were not necessarily permanent at the start and could be reversed. Data collected during pilot periods often showed tangible benefits, helping more pilot projects convert to permanent changes. Quick wins also encouraged city officials to try similar projects in other parts of the city, even increasing the scope of changes for a bigger impact.

When executed in a way that’s responsive to community concerns and with a plan for the future – whether just a maintenance plan for a light intervention or more permanent infrastructure – tactical urbanism can be a strong ally of positive urban transformations by earning people’s trust, providing a space for learning, and keeping decision-makers and users alike motivated by seeing quick gains.

Build Support Through City Coalitions

As cities face a growing list of challenges, it’s more important than ever that they share experiences and can understand what’s worked elsewhere. WRI Brasil, together with the National Front of Mayors, created a network of cities working to implement complete streets across the country. Thanks in part to this coalition, the initial number of cities working on complete streets projects in the country has already doubled from 10 in 2017 to 21 today.

Such peer networks allow urban planners to exchange challenges and lessons learned, helping each other to overcome local problems and deliver better projects. As a group, they end up evolving projects faster by pushing each other and acting a bit like a team focused on a shared vision of improving streets for residents.

The success of coalitions very much relies on two aspects. First, a good governance structure that allows for a smooth relationship among participant cities and the organization that coordinates them. Setting frequent online check-ins, creating an easy-to-access platform for sharing experiences like a WhatsApp group, and hosting in-person meetings once or twice a year for deeper connections help people feel connected and motivated. Building trust is essential to allow a seamless flow of activities by different actors and achieving tangible outcomes.

Second, it’s important to keep the network engaged. Launching small tasks, like developing pilot projects or presenting good practices in a webinar, creates healthy competition among cities. Communicating achievements to the public also helps reward good actors and create positive feedback loops.

Be Ready for Moments of Change, But Pay Attention to the Details Too

A common frustration among city officials is when good projects are shelved for years because there is reluctance to challenge the status quo or a new government enters office and existing projects are paused in favor of different political priorities. Tactical urbanism and city networks have both helped short-circuit this dynamic in Brazil by lowering the bar for starting a project and expanding the framing for change beyond the agenda of one mayor or another.

External disruptions can also be an impetus for change, creating moments when new solutions are all of a sudden sought after rather than spurned. COVID-19 has drastically changed how cities work as lockdowns introduce new rules for moving and living in cities. The benefits of complete streets and tactical redesigns are clearer than ever as mobility patterns change, there are fewer cars are on the streets and more space is needed for non-motorized transport. Decision-makers in MilanParisSeattle and elsewhere are recognizing this and using COVID-19 responses to pivot to more pedestrian- and cycling-friendly urban design. And the changes are being enacted not only to improve the use of public space but explicitly because of the potential of walking and cycling to contribute to a more sustainable and livable city too – in short, because of their transformative potential.

But though street transformations can be implemented fast, they still require high-quality, well-incorporated designs to be successful over time. For example, in higher speed zones, using just light barriers to separate cyclists or pedestrians from cars can put people at severe risk. In these cases, speed reduction efforts conducted in tandem with street transformations are a must, as well as clear signage so all users, including drivers, understand the new dynamics of the street. Designing safe intersections that incorporate the new road dynamics and connecting existing pedestrian and cycling lanes to any new infrastructure are also key elements to ensure changes connect to the broader urban mobility network. These details may take more time to get right, but they help ensure the success and sustainability of a project.

We are living in a period of transition that may lead to multiple urban transformations. People will travel, work and live differently for some time. Dedicating more of the huge amount of public space devoted to cars to walking and cycling benefits cities in multiple ways. More compact, connected cities are healthier, more sustainable, more inclusive and more productive, potentially yielding as much as $24 trillion in net benefits by 2050. But it’s those cities that adapt fastest and are able to sustain transformative change that will benefit most from these changes.

Paula Manoela dos Santos is the Active Mobility Manager at WRI Brasil Ross Center for Sustainable Cities.

Francisco Minella Pasqual is an Urban Mobility Assistant at WRI Brasil Ross Center for Sustainable Cities.

Fernando Corrêa is a Communications Analyst for WRI Brasil.


Image: More cities are transforming their streets to increase space for walking and cycling. A “complete streets” intervention in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, September 2019. Photo by Rafael Tavares-Octopus Filmes/WRI Brasil

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