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Energy Transition

Reducing cities’ emissions while improving their accessibility

Publication date: 15-02-2024, Read time: 5 min

By Rehana Shrestha, Mark H.P. Zuidgeest, J. Flacke

Rapid urbanization is a common phenomenon in developed as well as developing countries. In both cases, it usually contributes to CO₂ emissions, hence, climate change. Unfortunately, many developing countries are too busy developing to give the climate change issue the attention it is due. This has led to the notion of low-carbon development (LCD), which aims to lower cities’ carbon footprint and make them more sustainable.

Transition to sustainable transport

Unfortunately, LCD is hindered by continued motorization, especially in developing countries. As a result, cities have been called upon to make a transition towards low-carbon transport (LCT) futures. This transition calls for an integrated approach to transport planning and policy development and implementation. Plans must be developed to reduce the need for travel, shift to cleaner modes of transport, reduce trip lengths and achieve greater fuel efficiencies. Furthermore, scholars say that modern transport policy should be less focused on mobility and more on spatial accessibility. The better people’s access to jobs and services, the higher their quality of life. 

Two possible approaches

Developing effective sustainable transport plans requires looking many years ahead and ‘thinking the unthinkable’. Science has come up with the concept of scenario analysis as an approach to achieve just this. Scenario analysis aims to provide a sound description of a possible future, support strategic decision-making, and find ways to break dominant trends.

 Another possible approach in appraising transport plans and policies is using computer-supported, GIS-based planning support tools. By their ability to depict spatial relations, manage spatial information and produce visualizations, such tools have a lot to contribute in terms of assessing spatial accessibility.

A hybrid tool

In this context, the researchers behind this study developed a hybrid tool that integrates scenario analysis with a GIS-based planning support tool. The aim of this tool is twofold:

• facilitate analyses of spatial accessibility and CO₂ emissions

• assess scenarios for LCT plans in terms of improving accessibility and lowering emissions

Primary and secondary data

The researchers collected primary data for constructing scenarios for LCT plans from interviews with key informants from government, the private sector and academia, and by analysing relevant documents from the Kathmandu Sustainable Urban Transport Project (KSUT). For conducting analyses of LCT plan scenarios, secondary data were collected from various government departments and consultancies. 

The research area

The research for the support tool was undertaken in Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC), capital of Nepal. KMC was selected for this study as it is an example of a major city in a developing country that faces increasing urbanization combined with substantial motorization. The area is highly urbanised and densely populated. Increasing travel demand, limited road capacity and a shift towards private modes all contribute to problems of traffic congestion, thereby reducing people’s accessibility. In addition, many vehicles are poorly maintained and run on low-quality fuels, which obviously adds to the country’s CO₂ emissions.

The trouble with public transport

It’s generally agreed that many problems would be solved if more people used public transport (PT). However, KMC’s populations has an increasing tendency to prefer private transport. This has a lot to do with the poor reputation of the PT system, which is due to several factors: 


The tool was put to the test using a baseline scenario for a point in time in the future (based on reasoned predictions and expectations) and three alternative scenarios for making more people use public: 


The main conclusion is that a combination of policy instruments is necessary for both the PT system and the trolley bus system to make KMC’s public transport more attractive:

Future research

The researchers note that the current version has its limitations. They see room for improvement in several areas:

This article is a teaser of a paper entitled “A Planning Support Tool for Scenario Analysis of Low Carbon Transport Plans in a Data-Poor Context” 

A Planning Support Tool for Scenario Analysis of Low Carbon Transport Plans in a Data-Poor Context
Energy Transition Planning Support Systems Sustainable Cities
Last edited: 07-05-2024

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