Thursday 25 May 2023

UIC shares its key messages and priorities for the rail sector at the International Transport Forum (ITF) from 24 – 26 May 2023 in Leipzig

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Under the theme “Transport Enabling Sustainable Economies”, participants at the 2023 edition of ITF (International Transport Forum) Summit have come together to reflect and share perspectives on the role of transport as an enabler of economic development that also drives environmental and social sustainability.

The Summit is a major event on the global transport agenda where transport ministers, inter-governmental organisations and NGOs convene. For many years, UIC, together with its members, has actively engaged in this process to develop and make the arguments in favour of rail heard. In addition, it gives UIC the chance to foster links with its institutional partners, such as the multi-lateral development banks including the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

On 24 May, UIC, represented by its Director General François Davenne, took the opportunity to advocate the role of rail in decarbonising the transport sector by participating in the first Ministerial Round Table on “Transport and Climate Change – moving forward from COP27”, where the discussion focused on actions needed to get the transport sector on track to decarbonise in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement, how to best work together at an international level to achieve this.

In his speech, Francois Davenne conveyed the role of rail in the new mobility paradigm to the Transport Ministers of Norway, Korea, Germany, Lithuania, Romania, Ireland, United Kingdom, and Liechtenstein. Using the UIC Vision 2030 as a framework, he highlighted the need to implement policies that promote modal shift to less emitting modes of transport by at least 40%, by 2030, according to the IEA, and raising the financing for expansion and upgrading of public transport and active mobility infrastructure to support that shift. He also presented the work of UIC under the LOTUS and SURGe initiatives, launched by the COP27 presidency, focused on activating systemic change to urban mobility.
Key discussion outputs will be carried forward to high-level dialogues at COP28.

Lucie Anderton, UIC Head of Sustainable Development, participated in the panel session on “ITF Transport Outlook 2023: The future of sustainable mobility”, which presented the key findings from the new edition of the ITF’s flagship publication, Transport Outlook 2023.
Anderton reflected on the policy recommendations presented giving UIC’s support to the view that a holistic and long-term view must be taken:
“All the levers must be pulled to make the shift happen. Only by both discouraging private motorised vehicles at the same time as incentivising and higher investment in public transport and rail freight can the change happen quick enough.”

There was broad interest from the audience on the role of rail in decarbonising mobility given that rail is the most electrified, has the lowest carbon intensity of all the motorised modes with the right investment, is set to be the first mode to reach carbon neutrality.

It is clear that the most important thing that rail can do is attract more traffic. According to the International Energy Agency, rail’s market share needs to increase by more than 40% by 2030 for the transport sector to reach its 2050 “net zero” target. Although steps are being made in the right direction, especially with high-speed network expansion, the railway sector still only transports around 8% of passengers and 7% of freight globally. More trains are needed and we need them quickly. Substantial investment from the public and private sectors is justified and needed in order to create suitable and convenient public transport, as well as policies to encourage this transition.

UIC members are committed to overcoming these challenges, with notable examples including:

  • Reducing energy consumption
  • Improving measures and monitoring
  • Implementing actions to end fossil fuel use (notably through electrification, battery electric and hydrogen trains)

Given the right investment, the railway sector will be, by far, the first motorised mode to achieve carbon neutrality. To get there, there is a need for:
1. Clear, consistent and comprehensive policy and targets
2. Incentivising rail and public transport while discouraging high polluting modes
3. Long term investment in rail, public and active travel

As the benefits of rail (with active mobility and public transport) of improving congestion, air quality, road safety, and social inclusion benefits all society, public investment is justified and necessary. Climate finance and carbon markets could be used to improve and expand railways especially for low- and middle-income countries.

Global cooperation is essential, especially in view of the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP28. This is crucial, so that rail and general public transport has a wider reach and, thanks to pre-existing and readily available solutions, is seen as the key solution for decarbonised transport.

Watch the video of François Davenne’s interview at ITF:

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Transport Ministers meet in Leipzig to discuss transport and climate change
Minister's Roundtable (MRT 1) 2023
Amani Abou Zeid, Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, African Union and François Davenne, UIC Director General
Lucie Anderton, UIC's Head of Sustainability speaking at ITF Transport Outlook 2023: The future of sustainable mobility
Bilateral meeting between UIC and ADB (Asian Development Bank)