The 11th edition of the UIC Sustainability Conference opened today in Madrid, under the motto “Railways: Mobility for a sustainable future”. 300 participants are attending this conference which ends on Friday with a technical visit. During these three days the participants will share best practices and help influence where rail should go in future sustainable transport systems, introducing new and sustainable ways of life and business.
The conference was opened by Teófilo Serrano Beltrán, President of Renfe, Yoshio Ishida, Chairman of UIC and Vice Chairman JR-East, Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, Director General of UIC and Concepción Gutiérrez, Spanish Secretary of State for Transport.
Teófilo Serrano Beltrán welcomed all participants on behalf of the host Renfe and stated that “Sustainability is not only an objective to build a more sustainable transport system but it is also a way to manage railways. Sustainability has to be addressed at all levels in a company, mainly because it is an objective of the undertakings: the reason is because sustainability is one of the most important competitive advantages of rail.”
Yoshio Ishida greeted the participants from Tokyo with a video speech. He emphasised the importance of sustainability as a major issue for UIC members globally, though underlining that rail should not only be attractive for its sustainability advantages, but also for its customer-friendliness. Mr Ishida then talked about the need for cooperation and communications, and specifically mentioned the success of the “Train to Copenhagen” campaign towards COP 15 last year for railways globally, and later emphasised the important role that the UIC Declaration on Sustainable Mobility & Transport will play as a tool for UIC Members to work together on sustainability issues.
Concepción Gutiérrez, also representing the Spanish Presidency of the European Union for 2010, explained, among others, how rail made its case in Spain against many odds 18 years ago with the beginning of the high speed train era, and how the rail sector is flourishing today not only for high speed services, but also for both urban passenger and freight services, as the most geographically fit and sustainable transport mode. Further on she elaborated on a several billion Euros investment plan to increase the passenger and freight capacity in Spain even further in the coming years. She concluded by emphasising the importance of the cooperation between the expert and the political levels.
Jean-Pierre Loubinoux underlined that the transport sector is responsible for about a quarter of the global CO2 emissions and these are still increasing. In the future the transport share of the global emissions is even expected to rise to one third. “Rail is part of the solution to tackle this problem” and he stressed that “modal shift to rail is the key element to solve the emissions challenge of the transport sector”. On stressing the future importance of the UIC Declaration Sustainable Mobility & Transport, he was happy to share with the audience that UNEP and its Executive Director Achim Steiner is supporting it.
Further in the programme today, Kamala Ernest, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) will give an insight to transport from a UN perspective, while Joachim Kettner, Chairman of the UIC Environment, Energy & Sustainability Platform (DB AG), will present the rail strategy towards a strengthened sustainability performance.
Other highlights include one session dedicated to the successful development of the rail sector in Spain while another will explore successful sustainability projects worldwide. Furthermore, the session “The role of rail in future transport scenarios” will give external views and input to the role of rail in the future from, among others, Peder Jensen, European Environment Agency and Holger Dalkmann, Transport Research Laboratory.
The second day will focus on the sustainability work of UIC and UIC members, highlighted by the closing of the conference – the ceremony of the UIC Sustainability Awards. The UIC Sustainability Awards aims to reward excellence, ground breaking projects and the significant efforts made within the rail sector to continuously improve its sustainability performance.
The number of high calibre competition papers has made the job for the international, independent panel of judges very hard this year.
More information on the conference and names of the Sustainability Award winers will be announced in the next issue of UIC eNews!