Information published on 26 September 2014 in the UIC electronic newsletter "UIC eNews" Nr 416.

“On Track for Clean and Green Transport”:

  • Sustainable development

High-Level Event on Transport and Climate change organised by UIC, Amtrak, UN DESA and SLOCAT before the Summit to discuss in particular the Transport & Climate Change issue with key leaders

In the context of the UN Climate Summit, UIC, in cooperation with one of its Members of the North American region, the US national passenger rail operator Amtrak, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA) and the Partnership for SLoCaT organised one day before the UN Climate Summit, on 22 September, a high-level meeting on transport and climate change. This event brought together more than 100 participants from all over the globe, including representatives of the Transport world, as well as diplomacy, media and key political leaders of NGOs, IGOs, CEOs, VPs and VIPs.

This event, “On Track for Clean & Green Transport”, which took place at the General Post Office on 8th Avenue, currently being redeveloped as Moynihan Station, aimed at sharing the vision of potential development within the railways in the future and the role they can play regarding climate change between speakers and participants in an interactive atmosphere, with many questions asked by the audience. A few welcoming words were given by Michael Evans on behalf of the host of the day to say a few words on Moynihan Station and its future as a railway station, intermodal hub and backbone of sustainable transport.

A keynote address was made by José Viégas, Secretary General of the International Transport Forum (ITF/OECD). He highlighted Potential and Challenges of Railways’ contribution to Sustainable, Low Carbon Development by saying that in spite of significant progress of railways on multiple fronts, in some of the areas of railway advantage, the gap to road is shrinking. He also insisted on what is needed to reinforce railway’s contribution to Sustainable Development. He said: “You have to gain market share … you have to understand what the market wants … you have to anticipate, to have the courage to engage people and to think out of the box …” He also insisted on the fact that radical innovation is needed, and that ITF is available for cooperate and help UIC, one of its key interlocutors in this strategic sustainable development / climate change issue. He encouraged people to think differently - not a critical change but necessary to improve the legibility of railway advantages towards decision-makers. He added: “If the railway industry wants to shift … it has to overcome the procurement constraint, pushing the limits of what regulations usually do – and maybe the barriers will change … we have to change the frontiers of how procurement is made; we need some fresh air – so let’s go beyond the procurement.”
During the morning session participants also discussed the role that railways can play in the realisation of sustainable transport and addressing climate change. This session provided a global overview of how railways contribute to sustainable, low carbon development. Recent accomplishments and future plans of Amtrak, MTA, East Japan Railways, Mongolian and other rail operators and manufacturers in strengthening the position of railways were discussed with moderation by Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, UIC Director General, who said:

“At the UN Climate Summit tomorrow, UIC will announce an initiative to improve rail sector energy efficiency, decarbonise rail sector power and leverage this though modal shift – promoting a more sustainable balance of transport modes. The world needs resilient transport networks, as the climate changes the railways need to take action to ensure that services continue to meet customer expectations”. He added “Rail offers an important part of the solution to climate change. This is because it has low carbon intensity; and because the sector is taking action to provide climate resilient transport networks. Rail achieves low carbon intensity because it is an inherently efficient transport mode, fundamental to this is the very low rolling resistance between steel wheel and steel rail. It also benefits from economies of scale and high capacity - it has the ability to transport far more passengers and far larger freight quantities than road or air transport. I would like to start by with some examples from Europe before we move on to our panellists. The European rail sector has set itself the target to reduce specific energy consumption, per passenger km and tonne km, by 30% between 1990 and 2030. And to reduce specific carbon emissions, again per passenger km and tonne km, by 50% over the same period. We are on track to meet these targets. This is due to a number of reasons; improved load factors, investment in electrification, adoption of advanced technology and investment in low carbon power. For example: regenerative braking, returning breaking energy to the grid, is now state of the art. Advanced traffic control allows optimized train movements and speed profiles; in the UK, a reduction of over 2000 K tonnes of carbon will be achieved in 10 years through the installation of Driver Advisory Systems on both diesel and electric trains Eco-driving is now common, with recent trials in Sweden achieving savings of up to 19% in energy consumption. Experience in Norway has shown reductions in energy consumption of up to 15% following the installations of energy meters on trains. Meters on trains are now compulsory in Germany. In total 25,000 energy meters will be installed in Europe by 2020. The MERLIN project, part funded by the European Union, will offer a 10% reduction in energy consumption through more efficient energy management across the whole rail system. The electrified rail system, representing around 80% of European rail traffic, is immediately compatible with renewable energy. In fact the European rail sector has doubled its use of renewable electricity between 2005 and 2010. Renewable energies now account for 28 % of all electric traction in Europe. There are entire rail networks in Scandinavia, Switzerland, Austria where the electricity used is almost entirely carbon free. Today we have rail companies choosing to pay a premium price for electricity so that they can support investment in renewable energy. The Swiss railway owns and operates its own hydro electric power plants. The German railway offers business class travellers zero emission transport. The Dutch railway brokered a special deal so that from 2018 they will only use electricity supplied from new sources of renewable energy.”

After that, he invited panellists to illustrate actions taken by their companies in response to the challenge of climate change. [Presentations made during this day will be available in the next issue of UIC eNews].

Following this, participants broadened the scope to look at the wider transport agenda, with the first session of the afternoon considering integrating transport in international policy on climate change. This included contributions from Transport Research Laboratory, Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Minister of Environment from Mexico City, the Global Environment Facility, the Clean Development Board and Siemens Mobility.

This session aimed to explain the importance of integrating transport in international policy on climate change. Relevant findings for the transport sector from the recent 4th Assessment report of the IPCCC were presented as an underpinning for a discussion on the mitigation potential of the transport sector. In response to the outcome of the November 2013 session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP), which called for a more active integration of successful mitigation efforts by parties outside the convention into the deliberations on a new global climate change agreement, the session discussed how to best shape the contribution of the transport sector. This included a discussion on how to integrate the transport commitments that would be presented at the 23rd September Climate Summit of the Secretary General into an emerging Road Map for effective action on transport and climate change; this based on the understanding that fighting climate change is essential for poverty reduction and sustainable development.

At the end of the day participants looked again at action on the ground, by considering the Roadmap for Action on Transport and Climate Change. This session involved contributions from the World Resources Institute, United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), International Railway Association (UIC), International Association for Public Transport (UITP), the FIA Foundation, & the Smart Freight Centre.

The focus of this section was to explain to the audience how the commitments made at the Climate Summit will help the scaling up of sustainable, low carbon transport. At the same time, each of the organisations making a commitment also spoke about how the SG Climate Summit has accelerated/is expected to accelerate activities covered by the commitment at the Summit.

This High Level event was also supported by the International Association of Public Transport (UITP), the European Rail Industry (UNIFE) and the Canadian rail operator Via Rail.

UIC takes this opportunity again to thank the two architects for this fruitful day of discussion, Petra Messick from Amtrak and Nick Craven from UIC, for their involvement and all the work done to make this event a great success.

A video including the several highlights of the Event “On Track for clean and green transport” is available here: