New centre to tackle urban transport

Posted: 17 June 2002

The World Resources Institute (WRI) and the Shell Foundation have established a $7.5 million centre to to help solve problems of urban transport

The new centre, called EMBARQ - the WRI Center for Transport and the Environment - is based in Washington DC. It aims to develop socially, financially and environmentally sound solutions to the urban transport dilemma.

The focus of its first five years of operation will be cities in developing countries where air pollution, traffic congestion, and lack of access to clean and convenient transport are most acute and the poor bear the brunt of the problem.

"We have to change the way we move ourselves if we are to avoid the gridlock of environmental degradation brought out by transport," saidKurt Hoffman, director of the London-based Shell Foundation. "The vision of EMBARQ is a future where modern, healthy, and environmentallysustainable transport is available to everyone."

To launch EMBARQ the Shell Foundation gave WRI an initial start-up grant of US$3.75 million; spread over a five-year period. This grant could be doubled, depending on the success of the centre and other fundraising efforts. This is the largest grant given by the Shell Foundation since its establishment as an independent charity in 2000 by the Royal Dutch/Shell Group of Companies.

"EMBARQ will create solutions to ease traffic congestion and improve urban air quality in the growing cities of the world where air pollutionhas a devastating impact on public health. The solutions we are seeking will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport, one of the leading drivers of climate change," said Jonathan Lash, WRI president.

EMBARQ will concentrate on helping policy-makers adopt sensible transport strategies, try out likely solutions, and evaluate them openlyand fairly. Results of its various projects will be shared with other cities through a website, It will work with governments, research institutes, and non-governmental organizations in about five cities in the developing world. EMBARQ's first partnership is expected to be in Mexico City, one of the world's biggest cities that is crippled by unparalleled transport problems.

The United Nations estimates that by 2025, 54 per cent of the world's 7.8 billion population will be living in urban areas. The percentage ishigher in the developing world. Recent estimates show that 14 of the world's 19 megacities (with populations of more than 10 million people) are in the developing countries. This includes Mexico City, Mumbai, São Paulo, Lagos, Calcutta and Shanghai. Already, there are about 292 cities in the developing world with populations of more than a million.

"The growth of transport in these cities has outpaced all attempts to provide for roads, mass transit, and other forms of public transport.Transport is the primary source of air pollution in Latin America and third in Asia, after industry and households," said Dr. Jose Goldemberg, Secretary of Environment for the State of São Paulo, Brazil. "It is extremely good news to hear that Shell Foundation and WRI have joined forces to tackle this problem."

EMBARQ will be co-directed by Dr. Lee Schipper and Dr. Nancy Kete. For 20 years, Dr. Schipper worked at the Lawrence Berkeley NationalLaboratory in California and the last six years with the International Energy Agency in Paris. Dr.Kete is the Director of WRI's Climate, Energy and Pollution Programme.

The World Resources Institute ( is an environmental think tank that aims to create practical ways to protect the Earth and improve people's lives.The London-based Shell Foundation ( was established in 2000 to support efforts to achieve a balance between economic growth, care for the environment, and equitable social development.