Agreement and coordination of rail sector activities on the environment was top of the agenda last week at the first joint meeting of the UIC Environment, Energy and Sustainability Core Group and the CER Transport, Environment a nd Energy Strategy Group.
Members of both groups attended the meeting held at CER’s offices in Brussels. The decision to hold a joint meeting followed discussions between the groups on how to better coordinate their work together, which themselves followed the discussions two years ago between UIC, CER and EIM on how to better integrate the activities of the organisations. It was requested at the time that the environment groups could lead the way in exploring better joint working methods.
In a presentation delivered at the meeting by UIC’s Head of Unit for Sustainable Development Henning Schwarz and CER’s Senior Policy Adviser on Environment Issues Matthew Ledbury, the overall framework conditions in Europe concerning the environment were reviewed, with proposed actions outlined by both organisations.
A key part of the presentation was the review of the UIC/CER long-term sustainable mobility strategy for 2030 and beyond, which was adopted by the members of the two organisations in December 2010. Henning Schwarz analysed the developments in the key strands of the strategy (energy use, CO2, noise, and exhaust emissions) as well as explaining why more work in the area of sustainable land use should be considered. He also explained the current status and the relevance of the existing environment projects that UIC is undertaking.
Matthew Ledbury outlined the key political priorities in Europe that are shaping environmental activity, including the continued moves for further decarbonisation of transport, as outlined in the Transport White Paper and the Low Carbon Economy Roadmap; the further internalisation of external costs, including the Eurovignette Directive; proposed changes to Energy Taxation; the tackling of local air pollution (in particular through the NRMM directive); noise and climate change adaptation. He also explained the need for the updating and revision of supporting UIC/CER publications, such as the “Railways and the Environment: Facts and Figures” booklet.
The presentation concluded that currently energy and CO2 issues, and sustainable mobility offer “opportunities” for rail, whilst local emissions – and especially noise – are connected with potentially substantial risks. The sector needs to take advantage of the importance of the political priority of tackling CO2 emissions, in keeping with EU goals, and its efforts to promote rail as a low carbon mode must continue to take priority.
Members of the organisations agreed on the proposed conclusions, and details on the work the organisations will carry out in 2011 and 2012 will now be drawn up and submitted to members during their next meetings. The joint meetings to review environmental activity and priorities in Europe are planned to be held every year.