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LEDS in Practice: Create jobs by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from urban transport

This paper shares two case studies from cities that have generated employment by implementing low carbon transport projects.
zvidzai Maburutse


Low Emissions Development Strategies (LEDS) are central to the efforts of developed and developing countries to mitigate current and future greenhouse gas emissions, which if unchecked will accelerate climatic change and further exacerbate existing vulnerabilities, and thereby undermine efforts to adapt to climate change.

As a result of various push-pull factors, including impacts relating to climate change, migration from rural to urban settings (urbanisation) is increasing. This is increasingly exerting pressure on the capacity of cities, requiring interventions in order to maintain the health and security of their growing populations. In parallel to this, economic growth in developing and developed countries alike is resulting in an increased need for, and dependence on, public and private transport. This presents both a challenge and opportunity for cities to mitigate increasing air pollution and carbon emissions. In response to this the Transport Working Group at Low Emission Development Strategies Global Partnership (LEDS GP) has released a series of papers exploring the many benefits of low carbon urban transport (see links under further resources), of which this is one.

Create jobs

Developing countries face an average combined unemployment and underemployment rate of 30%. For instance, 8.8% of Colombia’s labor force in 2013 remained without work despite being available and seeking employment. Unemployed women are a particularly vulnerable population group, with a much higher unemployment rate of 25.1% compared with just 14.2% among young men. With an annual population growth of 1.3%, the number of young people entering the labor market is increasing, raising the economic development barrier for developing nations.

Unemployment affects not only individuals, but also their country’s national economy. A family experiencing unemployment will respond to losing income by cutting expenses on basic needs including food, education, and healthcare, leading to further economic and social losses beyond the household. Loss of income results in the depletion of a nation’s GDP—for every 1% increase in unemployment rate, GDP falls an additional 2%.

This paper* shares two case studies from cities that have generated employment by implementing low carbon transport projects. It describes the TransMilenio bus rapid transit system in Bogota, Colombia and the Vélib’ bike sharing system in Paris, France, and provides details of the design, implementation and the results of these projects to date. Today a third of the world’s population live in low income countries. These countries account for only 3.3% of the global gross domestic product (GDP). The potential economic productivity of this workforce in low income countries has not yet been realized.

*download from the right-hand column or via the link under further resources.

Key Messages

  • As well as enhancing the climate performance of cities and regions, well designed low carbon transport systems can create employment opportunities—a win–win opportunity.
  • There is increasing evidence that investment in low carbon transport creates more jobs than investment that favors cars and other motorized forms of transport.
  • Along with the short term employment impact, longer term jobs in these public transport systems tend to be more formalized and secure.
  • Investing in low carbon transport solutions is a key area to be tapped, especially in countries facing high unemployment and limited social and economic development.
  • For example:
    • Bogota’s TransMilenio bus rapid transit system saves almost 250,000 tons of carbon dioxide each year, and employs 40,000 workers with provision for social security benefits such as pension schemes and healthcare.
    • In Paris the Vélib’ bike share program employs 400 people and helps reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by 32,330 tons of carbon dioxide.

LEDS in Practice

This paper is one of a series on the co-benefits of low emission development strategies in the transport sector, from the LEDS GP Transport Working Group, World Resources Institute’s Ross Center for Sustainable Cities (EMBARQ) and GIZ. View the others here:

The LEDS GP Transport Working Group provides technical assistance, tools, and training for LEDS in transport systems. The group works to:

  • share approaches and practices for transport and land use planning n provide transport analysis methods and tools
  • offer peer to peer, transport-specific financial training and expert assistance.

Contact: [email protected]

Suggested Citation

Lefevre, B., Eisenbeiß, K., Yadav, N. and Enriquez, A. (2016) Create jobs by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from urban transport. LEDS in Practice. Low Emission Development Strategies Global Partnership.

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