For the 8 million people of Bogota who carry out their daily activities in an industrialized city with one of world’s worst traffic congestion, combating air pollution caused in large part by emissions from their means of transport is a necessity.
In recent days, the importance of tackling this problem became even more evident when the city had to face a yellow alert due the high levels of pollution (the PM2.5 air quality index was 55 μg/m³, when it should not exceed 25 μg/m³). Many citizens saw their quality of life affected during those days. They suffered from eye irritation, soreness in their throats, coughing and breathing difficulties, and were exposed to complications of their immune systems.
In this context, it is not rare to find innovative initiatives in the city that seek to address the pollution problem. For instance, for almost 20 years the city has been celebrating a Car-Free Day on the first Thursday of February. On this day, private vehicles are left at home and people are encouraged to use greener methods of travel. In the 2018 commemoration, this meant around 1.5 million less cars and motorcycles on the streets.
The city also encourages the use of bicycles as a means of daily transport and there are bike paths specially designed for their transit. A study conducted by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in 2015 revealed that Bogotá is the Latin American city that moves around by bicycle the most, with more than 600,000 trips taking place per day.
Benchmark in the region for hybrid buses
Adding to these valuable initiatives is the credit line offered by Bancóldex with IDB support to use clean technology in the Integrated Public Transport System (known in Spanish as SITP). Bogota has managed to incorporate to the SITP more than 300 hybrid buses that combine an electric propulsion system with diesel engines, which reduces greenhouse gas emissions by around 20,000 tons of CO2 per year. The other advantage of these vehicles is that they do not require electric recharging points, because the operation of the motor recharges the batteries.
Bogota is a benchmark in the region in the use of this technology, and the size of its hybrid bus fleet shows a great commitment to the transition towards alternatives that support climate change mitigation. The project was financed in large part with the Clean Technology Fund (CTF) of the Climate Investment Funds (CIFs), which seeks to transform developing and emerging economies through resources that promote the large-scale use of low carbon technologies.
10 years of climate finance
The CIFs, which celebrate a decade of existence this year, have found in the IDB a valuable partner to help Latin America and the Caribbean face the challenges of climate change. CIF resources are used to finance operations with the public sector and the private sector, mainly in projects related to renewable energy, sustainable forest management, energy efficiency, environmental policy planning and, as in this case, to sustainable transport programs.
In the coming days, an IDB delegation will be accompanying Mafalda Duarte, Chief of the CIFs, to visit several high-impact projects in the region that have been financed with these funds. Bogota’s hybrid bus program will be the first stop, as it is an excellent example of the catalytic role climate investments play in sustainable development.
Although the recent yellow alert for air pollution shows that there is still work to be done to improve the situation, the fact is that Bogota is taking steps in the right direction towards a low carbon future. Their efforts will be key to help Colombia fulfill its international commitments acquired through its NDC (nationally determined contribution), and to give the people of Bogota the chance of going out to the streets for a breath of clean air.