UIC participated in the ministerial segment of the Fourth High-Level Meeting on Transport, Health and Environment held in Paris from 14 to 16 April and hosted by the Government of France. The High-Level meeting is organised by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the World Health Organisation Regional Office for Europe (WHO/Europe) under the Transport, Health and Environment Pan-European Programme (THE PEP).
Under the slogan “City in motion: People first!” the High-Level Meeting adopted the Paris Declaration which paved the way for the second decade of THE PEP, carving out new objectives through 2020. The High-Level Meeting underlined the importance of sustainable urban mobility, the integration of transport policy with spatial planning and support for green and healthy livelihoods in cities. The strategic importance of working in partnership with international players, civil society, and sub-national and local governments was also emphasised.
In this context, Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, UIC Director General, participated in a panel including:
- Her Excellency Ms Khatuna Gogaladze, Minister of Environment of Georgia
- His Excellency Dr Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis, Minister of Health of Lithuania
- Mr Laurent Michel, Director General for Energy and Climate, France
- Mr Jean Todt, President, FIA (TBC; alternate FIA Secretary General)
In his speech, Jean-Pierre Loubinoux said:
“We need strong policy, but also appropriate policy and balanced policy. We can see some steps towards internalisation of external costs based on the ‘polluter pays’ principle, but this is far from the ambitions of the EU Transport White paper. If we are to achieve real change then the customer must be presented with a price that reflects the full cost of their transport choice, including the cost of accidents, air pollution, climate change, congestion and other negative externalities.
To illustrate this point I can give an example for shipping freight from Geneva to Paris, for this journey the external cost for road transport is 75 times greater than for rail. Far more progress is needed for full internalisation, equal between transport modes, for urban, regional and international travel.
Air quality is an important topic. Just last month the air quality here in Paris deteriorated to alarming levels. It was good to see the local authority take strong and fast action, with both a carrot and a stick – public transport was offered free of charge whilst temporary vehicle bans were introduced. Clearly much further work is needed to support a long-term solution. However, it is vital that policy and regulation focus on the real problem. It’s not because I am a railway man that I say the problem is road traffic. In sensitive urban areas, rail networks are almost entirely clean and electric. Rail’s share of the total exhaust emissions in Europe is very low, as they account for less than 2.5% for NOx and 4.5 % for particulate matter. We can expect further reductions of these already low levels in the future, reduction of 30 to 40 % by 2020. We need strong policies, but this must focus on the areas where it is needed.
Of course we must also consider Climate Change. Effective co-ordination of policy at the international level is essential.
As transport is responsible for more than one quarter of global Green House Gas Emissions, and still growing, we see the need for dedicated treatment of transport. For this reason, transport should be given a key structural role within international agreements. This includes the proposed EU 2030 framework, and the global agreement expected following the United Nations Climate Change talks in Paris next year, COP21.
We would welcome a direct link between revenue raised through carbon taxes or trading mechanisms, and investment in sustainable transport systems.
Rail is a solution to climate change. The electrified rail system, representing around 80% of European rail traffic, is immediately compatible with renewable energy. In fact the European rail sector has considerably increased its use of renewable electricity between 2005 and 2010. Renewables now account for about 29% of all electric traction. Today we have entire rail networks in Scandinavia, Switzerland, Austria where the electricity used is almost entirely carbon free.
UIC is planning a campaign for COP21 to highlight the role that rail can play as a solution to climate change. I hope that you accept my invitation to travel by train to COP21.”