Wenz, L., Weddige, U., Jakob, M., Steckel, J.

Road to glory or highway to hell? Global road access and climate change mitigation

in Environmental Research Letters, 10.07.2020

Peer Review , Climate and Development

Transportation infrastructure is considered a key factor for economic development and poverty alleviation. The United Nations have explicitly included the provision of transport infrastructure access, e.g. through all-season road access, in their Sustainable Development Goal agenda (SDGs, target 9.1). Yet, little is known about the number of people lacking access to roads worldwide, the costs of closing existing access gaps and the implications of additional roads for other sustainability concerns such as climate change mitigation (SDG-13). Here we quantify, for 250 countries and territories, the percentage of population without road access in 2 km. We find that infrastructure investments required to provide quasi-universal road access are about USD 3 trillion. We estimate that the associated cumulative CO2 emissions from construction work and additional traffic until the end of the century amount to roughly 16 Gt. Our geographically explicit global analysis provides a starting point for refined regional studies and for the quantification of further environmental and social implications of SDG-9.1.