Mobility in urban areas is a basic condition for participating in working life, engaging in social cultural and political activities, getting access to education and health facilities. Expanding access to affordable, clean energy especially in urban areas is critical for realizing the MDGs and enabling sustainable development across the globe.
Increased mobility serves to connect people to people, provides social and economic connections, goods to markets, workers to jobs, families to services, and the poor in rural areas to urban centres. This connectivity process that is essential to induce economic growth and reduce poverty. Increased mobility brought about by improved mobility including pedestrian and transport infrastructure does play a catalytic role in integrating slum and squatter settlements into the urban fabric. These settlements are often physically isolated and disconnected from the main city, with residents having to endure longer commuting times and higher transportation cost. Improved mobility and accessibility can also reduce the level of social exclusion and improve access to various employment and activity nodes.
The benefits of improving access to modern energy services in urban and peri-urban areas are transformational: lighting for schools, functioning health clinics, pumps for water and sanitation, cleaner indoor air, faster food-processing and more income-generating opportunities, among others. Improving urban energy services is directly linked to achieving the Millennium Development Goals: Reducing poverty and creating jobs by making possible income-generating and entrepreneurial opportunities (MDG 1); Empowering women by liberating women and girls from time-consuming tasks, such as collecting fuel, pounding grain and hauling water, freeing time for education and economic activity (MDGs 2 and 3); Improving health conditions by decreasing women and children’s drudgery, and eliminating ‘kitchen smoke’ that kills 2 million people mostly women and children – every year (MDGs 4, 5 and 6); Promoting clean energy solutions that contribute to low-carbon development (MDG 7).
At the urban level local authorities are increasingly realizing that transportation is the lifeline of cities. They understand that residential areas, work places, commercial zones and recreation facilities need to be connected and accessible to everyone. They want to make urban mobility an integral part of urban planning in order to create a “city of short distances”. In this regard they are developing or planning to develop intelligent transportation systems with intermodal transport offers that connect mass transit solutions to cycle networks and pedestrian areas. The advantages of increased mobility must be viewed against the environmental impacts. Transport systems associated with motorized mobility have significant impacts on the natural and built environment given that transportation accounts for between 20 and 25% of world energy consumption, with about 95% of transport energy coming from petroleum. The proportion of journeys made by private transportation as opposed to mass transit – particularly in larger cities – is an important factor influencing the overall greenhouse gas emissions from an urban area.
Following projections, universal access to modern energy services (access to modern energy services for all) is achievable by 2030. Urban areas play an increasingly important role in this endeavor as urbanization proceeds and urban populations are and will continue to steadily increase.
Urban planning can provide configurations that minimise excessive mobility demands (and the resultant demands for increased speed and energy). Ultimately a combination of greening existing and building new, public and non‐motorised transport infrastructure can deliver the lower per capita energy use and emissions rates that the world of the near future will almost certainly require to survive.
There are no fundamental technical barriers, and proven and innovative solutions exist. The capital investment required for universal energy access represents only around 3 per cent of the total global energy investment. Governments must make energy services and energy access a top political priority. The battle against energy poverty, as much as the battle for sustainable human development and against the anthropogenic green house effect in the 21st century can and will only be won in the World’s cities, in urban areas.