Durban, South Africa – Rapid transit and safe cycling and walking networks will do more for health and climate than improving fuels and fuel efficiency, according to a new report by the World Health Organization (WHO). The report, Health co-benefits of climate change mitigation, said that climate experts should more systematically consider how these strategies can reduce CO2 emissions in the transport sector.
The report was reviewed by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). While the IPCC’s global assessment of mitigation options for the transport sector places the greatest emphasis on improving carbon efficiencies for private vehicles and fuels, the WHO found a stronger and more positive association with health benefits from rapid transit and dedicated walking/cycling systems, which are covered by the IPCC but not as systematically and with little note of health issues.
A large and growing body of literature finds that transit and walking/cycling systems are strongly associated with more healthy physical activity, lower urban air pollution risks, and lower rates of traffic injury. Land use systems that emphasize more compact cities, and mixed-use development of commercial and residential areas, along with amenities for walking and cycling, are also strongly associated with better health.