Africa is the continent with the most rapidly growing urban population, at an estimated annual rate of 3%. The surge in population is paired with rapid urbanisation and increased transportation. Consequently, emissions from transportation are growing significantly all across Africa, further driven by urban sprawl, rapid motorization and low levels of institutional capacity to manage traffic and its impact.
The exponential increase in transportation brings with it a worsening urban air quality. Emissions from transport-related sources are a major cause of chronic respiratory-related illnesses and premature deaths in Africa. It is estimated that 90% of urban air pollution in developing countries is attributable to vehicle emissions. The World Health Organization has calculated that 176,000 deaths per year in Africa are due to outdoor air pollution.
At an event hosted by the African Development Bank, at the COP24, on transport emissions monitoring and mapping, attendees and speakers exchanged experiences on developing cleaner and more efficient transport infrastructure.
The speakers agreed that governments are not acting quickly enough in addressing the worsening urban air quality situation in the region. One of the reasons offered was the lack of reliable data on air pollution levels due to weak and non-existent air quality monitoring networks in several countries. This makes it harder for local and regional governments to take coordinated action to tackle the sources of air pollution.
"Standards are important in this area. The first standard to be respected is to protect human health. These standards must be adapted to each government and to the specificities of each region," stated Mark Radka, chief of energy and climate at UNEP.
Another reason for weak government support for air pollution measures was thought to be the limited regional evidence of the environmental and human health impact of air pollution, and the exact magnitude of the associated health risks.
To address these gaps in both knowledge and collaborative action to address air pollution, there is a need to develop a systematic assessment and approach to guide governments, key municipal stakeholders, and policy-makers on the most effective ways to collect, store and analyse data, and map air pollution levels within cities.
A study by the African Development Bank on the topic "Transport Emission, Mapping, Monitoring and Capacity Building in 5 selected African countries", proposes several recommendations to strengthen the coordination of air quality efforts in African cities, by integrating mandatory quantitative air quality components in environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) to establishing institutional frameworks and baselines for air quality.
"Air quality has become more and more of a priority for the C40 cities, from London to Dar-es-Salaam to Bangalore. Clean transportation is a win-win process. With these recommendations we hope to drive this development forward," stated Andrea Fernandez from C40 cities.
The recommendations by the panelists at the COP24 event will help to improve the monitoring of air pollution trends in cities; produce clearer projections of the impact of investments on air pollution and carbon-finance benefits; encourage efficient planning of land-use and transport systems; and contain emissions from the transport sector.