Main Issue

Cars, trucks, buses, trains, ships and airplanes — the world relies on transportation to fuel its economic growth and development.

Until recently, the growth of global transport has gone hand-in-hand with increases in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from fossil fuels. More sustainable options for transport are emerging that can preserve economic growth with less harm to the environment and human health. This is particularly crucial for urban systems given that seven out of every ten people on the planet will live in urban areas by mid-century.

Global population is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, and most people will live in cities. This combination of population growth and urbanization will add more stress to transport systems in cities. With the right policies and technology, however, the transport sector could contribute enormously to reducing emissions and fighting climate change. At the same time, sustainable transport could drive a path toward the green economy.

When urbanization is well managed, resilient, inclusive and resource-efficient, cities become the drivers of sustainable development and economic growth. If just 100 out of all cities in the world went low-carbon, GHG emissions would drop by an estimated 10 percent a year. With over 90 percent of urban growth occurring in developing countries, cities are the best place to build a liveable, low-carbon future.

What We Do

The GEF has been a long-time supporter of energy-efficient, low-carbon transport, with projects underway in 90 cities around the world. These projects make a positive contribution to people’s everyday lives by reducing local air pollution and traffic congestion. In 2015, the GEF launched a  Sustainable Cities Integrated Approach Pilot Program. With support from the World Bank and many additional partners, the program will engage 23 cities in 11 developing countries. Read more+

As a catalyst for sustainable transport, our projects reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but they also enhance quality of life at the local level. For example, we have helped communities expand clean public transport choices to reduce local air pollution and traffic congestion.

We support an array of approaches to sustainable transport.

Technology solutions: For immediate results, we fund technology that makes engines and transmissions more efficient and cleaner. For long-term solutions, we support the development of advanced vehicles (electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and fuel-cell vehicles), as well as alternative fuels such as biofuels.

Urban transport systems: Through these projects, cities can help “avoid” the demand to travel by car and/or “shift” travel to a more efficient mode. They also “improve” energy efficiency of travel through better traffic management and route choice.

Integrated urban systems: This investment strategy aims to address urban systems as a whole. A project in the People’s Republic of China, for example, integrated support for green buildings, low-carbon energy mix, green transport and other green energy schemes to reduce carbon use.

Building on our experience in urban systems, we launched the Sustainable Cities Integrated Approach Pilot Program. The program will demonstrate how innovative and focused investments in urban planning and management can put cities on the path to sustainability, while building climate and disaster resilience. It will provide US$1.5 billion to benefit 23 cities in 11 developing countries. City leaders will be expected to share their knowledge and best practices with others.


GEF began supporting urban programs with two grants in 1999: one helped Sao Paulo improve its transport infrastructure, and the other helped Beijing improve its sewage treatment and district heating.

Since then, GEF has invested in 100 projects in 110 cities across 60 countries, with US$740 million in grant and an additional US$8.73 billion leveraged in co-financing from the private sector and other sources. Some successful examples include the Tianjin Eco-City project, the Asian Sustainable Transport and Urban Development Program, the Introduction of Climate Friendly Measures in Transport in Mexico City.

The GEF in Action: Transforming Transport in Mexico

Using Avenida de los Insurgentes, Mexico City’s longest and busiest avenue as its first corridor, a GEF project successfully shifted 315,000 daily passengers onto public transit. It also replaced 350 polluting buses with 97 new ones equipped with state-of-the-art exhaust systems and running on ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel, dramatically reducing the emissions of commutes by an estimated 47,000 tonnes of carbon annually.