Sustainable development is considered one of the main global challenges facing the world today and is an important aspect of transport development. UIC and its members work continuously to demonstrate how rail can be part of the solution to the challenge of sustainable development.

Achievements to be highlighted

COP 24 - Katowice
Launch of the Eco scoring network

The Future of Rail, Opportunities for energy and the environment, by International Energy Agency (IEA) in collaboration with UIC, 2019
UIC and IEA Railway Handbook
Global Sustainability Report 2012

General context of the business activity

Awareness of rail transport’s role as a key driver of sustainable development with the potential to mitigate the effects of climate change has increased significantly in recent years among civil society, citizens and decision makers. The rail sector must face the consequences of climate change not only in the short and medium term, but also in the longer term. It will have to adapt to environmental change and must anticipate risks in order to limit a heavy financial burden.

Climate change is not the only issue facing the railway sector. Consequently, UIC also works on other key issues, such as depletion of resources (water, metals, etc.) and polluting emissions, with a view to identifying ways to mitigate such issues. It seeks out alternatives to unsustainable land use and is involved in many other activities enabling the railways to be in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The UIC Sustainability unit has developed cooperative links with the various stakeholders dealing with these issues worldwide. These collective efforts must be reinforced and must become more widespread, for example by improving data sharing to better assess rail performance and communicate the benefits it can offer as a sustainable transport mode.

Reference to how the business is organised

The unit’s activities are governed by the UIC Energy, Environment and Sustainability Platform, an open meeting for members which takes place twice a year and is currently chaired by Willy Bontinck (SNCB). The unit also works with a core group to provide strategic direction as well as a number of working groups and is involved in several key projects.

Key challenges facing this business

  • Representing the railway sector internationally and advocating its sustainability at international events such as the UN Conference of Parties and preparatory meetings or Sum4all conferences in order to raise the profile of the railways on the international stage
  • Reinforcing cooperation with other UIC departments such as the Freight, Passenger and Rail System departments
  • Contributing to internal reports on core topics of relevance to the Sustainability unit and UIC as a whole, as well as external reports for international groups and organisations in order to represent the interests of the global railway community
  • Responding quickly to rapid changes to the environment and being proactive in proposing new projects to fight climate change, as well as other environmental issues (resource depletion, loss of biodiversity, increasing inequality, pollution, over-production and consumption, etc.)
  • Developing corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities relating to both technical and environmental topics and other issues
  • Strengthening member participation and involvement
  • Improving the environmental database and assessments for railways
  • Assisting members with IRS development.

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