Wednesday 13 December 2023

Climate ambitions at stake: UIC study urges inclusion of rail in national plans

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On the occasion of COP28 in Dubai, the International Union of Railways released a new study on “Rail in Nationally Determined Contributions: analysis and recommendations”. The study analyses all 195 NDCs submitted by Parties to the UNFCCC, a key instrument of the Paris Agreement, whereby countries state national climate plans to meet the Paris Agreement objectives. The research was carried out by the UIC Sustainability Unit. It assesses how these plans feature rail transport as a climate solution and presents recommendations to build more comprehensive policies in the next review cycle, due in 2025.

NDCs are a key component of the Paris Agreement. Each signatory Party to the agreement is required to submit an NDC that details the country’s commitment, actions and strategies to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The documents take into consideration the country’s national circumstances, capabilities, financing and priorities for 5-year cycles. As new NDCs are developed, the level of ambition is enhanced, with the Global Stocktake process happening between two NDC cycles to ensure progress is tracked and to guide countries in cases where more ambition is needed. The Paris Agreement recognises that long-term goals will be achieved over time and therefore builds on a ratcheting up of aggregate and individual ambition over time.

To further efforts to decarbonise the transport sector, it is important to analyse the current state of rail integration within NDCs and to develop recommendations for how countries can better include rail in their climate strategies. Furthermore, implicating the rail sector in a country’s NDC can signal commitment to developing the sector, which can then enhance national policymaking, attracting potential international cooperation and financial support.

The study found that although rail accounts for just 1% of transport emissions, only around 25% of countries featured rail within their document and only 10% had actual specific targets for their rail sector. Collectively, the modal share of rail must grow by more than 40% by 2030 for the transport sector to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

In the next cycle of NDCs, countries can demonstrate how the rail sector provides an effective climate solution, by considering the following recommendations:

This is a collective effort to create guidance for better active travel, public transport and rail representation in the next cycle of NDCs, so that countries can tailor the recommendations to their national context and thereby have comprehensive NDCs for the transport sector. The methodology adopted is based on National Policies for Walking and Cycling in all 197 UNFCCC countries, developed by the Partnership for Active Travel and Health (PATH – through Walk21). The same methodology was used by UITP for Nationally Determined Contributions & Public Transport. Walk21, UITP and UIC are co-leads under the “Build capacity to develop integrated, multimodal policy frameworks in LMICs” workstream of the Low Carbon Transport for Urban Sustainability (LcO2TUS) launched at COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh.

The study is available here:

For further information please contact Lucie Anderton at

or Joo Ha at

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