Following the virtual signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Thursday 18 November, the International Union of Railways (UIC) and the World Wildlife Fund Central and Eastern Europe (WWF-CEE) are set to explore deeper cooperation.
The online MoU signing ceremony was held to emphasise the potential of railways as a clean, environmentally friendly and sustainable cornerstone of green transport systems.
“A holistic approach is necessary if the railway is to be the champion of transport.”
Mr François Davenne, Director General of UIC, said that “Sustainability is central to the mission of UIC and vision for the railways. Railways are frontrunners in global climate action and will play a much more important role in future transport systems as a low-emission mode and backbone of a sustainable mobility system. As one of the largest landowners in the developed world, railways are responsible for maintaining land over a wide area and therefore have a great responsibility and opportunity to protect biodiversity. Railway land hosts a broad range of habitats and species and has the potential to build and operate the railways in a way that can help reverse the current loss of global biodiversity” .
Mr Andreas Beckmann, CEO of WWF-CEE, highlighted that “Where transportation is needed, public transportation will be an important part of the solution. And here railways have a key role to play. But, like other infrastructure, railways can dissect habitats and thus negatively impact the movement of animals. We need to minimise these impacts as much as possible, through smart design and measures such as green bridges and tunnels that allow the free movement of fauna.”
“Travel by train is one of the more environmentally friendly modes of travel in terms of energy efficiency and emissions - anywhere between ten to 20 times less polluting than air travel.”
Working in partnership with WWF-CEE
Recalling the background to the agreement, Mr Beckmann added that “Over the past 50 years, we humans have wiped out 68 per cent of wildlife populations on this planet. This is amounting to an existential threat for ourselves and our civilisation. But every challenge represents an opportunity for developing solutions. Climate change and biodiversity loss are complex, multifaceted challenges that require a multiplicity of solutions - thousands and millions of opportunities for solutions that add up to the existential threat we are facing”.
Mr Davenne announced that he intended to raise the railways’ level of ambition and commitment in respect of sustainable land use by railways with the collaboration of WWF-CEE. In addition, he invited UIC members to take part in the UIC REVERSE project, through which UIC expects to expand its network thanks to the new connection with WWF-CEE.
One of UIC’s overarching goals is to encourage dialogue among UIC members and stimulate sharing and promotion of best practices in building and managing biodiverse railways. Thus, UIC and WWF-CEE are confident that this partnership will strengthen the work in the region of Central and South-East Europe, known as the Green Heart of Europe, and act as a catalyst to grow to a global level with WWF.
UIC and WWF-CEE will work together to identify and promote some of the many solutions urgently needed to secure a living planet for people and nature.
For further information, please see the video of the event on the UIC YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/embed/dGv__w8Qzm8
Mr Davenne’s and Mr Beckmann’s speeches are available at the following links:
Mr Beckmann: https://bit.ly/3o09URy