Tuesday 12 April 2022

UIC at the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Climate Week in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 28 to 31 March 2022

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UIC represented the railway sector at a number of events during MENA Climate Week, a week-long conference coordinated by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The Sustainability Unit was there to promote rail and its critical role in a carbon-neutral future as set out in the UIC 2030 Vision, “Design a better future”, and its four key transformations.

UIC partnered with SLOCAT and UITP to collectively raise the profile of rail, public transport and sustainable mobility in the transition to a decarbonised economy.

On 29 March, UIC co-organised the “Building the future of mobility: the shift to sustainable, low and zero emissions transport in the MENA region” side event with SLOCAT and UITP. Speakers discussed the role that rail and the public transport sector will play in getting both our economies and people moving again as we recover from the pandemic. Speakers included UIC member Saudi Transport General Authority, the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) and REN21, covering exciting new rail developments in Saudi Arabia both for passengers and rail and the IsDB’s investments in climate-friendly mobility in the region, as well as highlighting the importance of connecting the transport sector to the renewable energy agenda.

On 30 March, a session entitled “Sustainable transport supporting Covid-19 recovery strategies in the MENA region” was co-organised by the Islamic Development Bank and SLOCAT with the support of UIC and UITP. In this interactive session, presentations were given by UITP on pandemic transport and mobility responses, with participants discussing which policy responses will help drive the shift towards more sustainable and low carbon transport modes, and, where relevant, the recovery of public transport and paratransit ridership to pre-pandemic levels.

The audience also heard about pandemic recovery investments from UIC’s Head of Sustainability, Lucie Anderton, and the Islamic Development Bank, with a lively discussion. Sustainable transport is required to enhance equitable passenger transport access, bolster sustainable logistics chains and support economic recovery.

On the afternoon of 30 March, the event on the topic of urban environment: “Unlocking the potential of transport and mobility to build sustainable cities”, brought speakers on board for a discussion on accessible, integrated solutions and inclusive cities, as well as political investment from local governments. Decision-making should prioritise solutions that are net zero, inclusive and people-centred. Shifting passenger activity from more intensive modes such as private cars and airplanes to rail and public transport is, therefore, a key strategy for net zero alignment. Examples of countries with ambitious climate plans for the transport sector include Morocco: its national railway company is implementing its green transformation progressively, shifting 25% of its overall energy consumption to green energy. This figure will increase to 50% in 2023 and to 100% in the medium term. There is an urgent need in all cities to implement meaningful, innovative and transformational solutions to deliver on existing climate targets but also expand on the ambition and the use of national climate plans as powerful tools to deliver climate action.

Finally, on 31 March, the “Get on board: the role of rail and public transport in a sustainable mobility system” action hub featured a discussion with Lucie Anderton and Philip Turner, UITP Head of Sustainable Development, on the role of modal shift in both passenger and freight transport in achieving the climate targets for the mobility sector. Ms Anderton focused on freight rail in the MENA region and its growing potential and benefits in terms of emissions, providing examples from Saudi Arabia, where freight adoption has shown to be not only environmentally better but also economical. Mr Turner spoke about how urbanism can present both a challenge and a huge opportunity, with a lot of investment in public transport and cities that have not been built yet. He also mentioned the global benefit of doubling public transport ridership. Transport emissions will be cut by half, but the initiative will also create jobs, make cities safer and save money. In terms of regulation, there is a need to provide a multimodal transport system that is easy to use.

These events provided a platform for networking and exchange of knowledge for policymakers, businesses, innovators, financiers and civil society on what the future of sustainable mobility looks like and how to get there. Examples of action on the ground, such as in Morocco and Saudi Arabia, show that change is possible and is already happening, but also served as a reminder of challenging areas requiring urgent action, such as energy sources for mobility systems. UIC will work to expand on the efforts initiated at the MENA Climate Week, working closely with members in the region and increasing the railways’ visibility and strengthening their voice in the build-up to COP27 in Egypt.

If you are interested in joining these efforts, please contact sustainability@uic.org

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Joint Side Event: Building the Future of Mobility: The shift to sustainable, low and zero emissions transport
MPGCA Regionalization workshop
Think Tank: Sustainable transport supporting COVID-19 recovery strategies in the MENA region (SLOCAT, ISDB)
Action Track 3, Urban Environments: Unlocking the Potential of Transport and Mobility to Build Sustainable Cities (UNEP, SLOCAT, UIC, UITP)
Action Hub: Get on Board: the role of rail and Public transport and rail freight in a sustainable mobility system (UIC & UITP)