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Putting rail on the UN Climate Change Conference agenda

Friday 7 September 2012

Every year, the UN secretariat of convention UNFCCC holds a Conference Of Parties (COP) to launch new negotiations to find new solutions to climate change. From 29 November to 10 December 2010, UIC promoted the role of rail as part of the solution to climate change at the COP16 in Cancún, Mexico. In cooperation with UNEP (the UN Environment Programme) and ITPS (Institution for Transport Policy Studies), a successful joint side event was organised on 1 December under the theme “Keeping climate solutions on track – the role of partnerships, good practice and rail”.

UIC at COP 16

COP-16 Side Event

The objective of this side event aimed on the one hand to draw attention to the contribution of transport’s emissions to climate change (23% of CO2 emissions come from transport), and on the other to strengthen cooperation between UIC and key international organisations on transport and climate change. Click on the image to get to know our side event.

The side event was composed of two panels. The first panel included the presentations of the host organisations. ITPS, represented by Deputy Director Iwao Matsuoka, presented a proposal for a funding scheme supporting the development of railways in developing countries. UIC, represented by Senior Advisor Margrethe Sagevik,, highlighted rail’s efforts to continuously improve the performance and commitments to sustainable mobility. The efforts were encapsulated by the Declaration on Sustainable Mobility and Transport and the global rail position paper “Keeping Climate Solution on track”. UNEP, represented by Spokesperson and Head of Media Nick Nuttall, showcased climate neutral solutions for transport, including the bus rapid transport system (BRTs) in Jakarta and the Climate Neutral Network initiative which brings together partners from several industries and sectors all aiming to achieve climate neutrality.

The second panel welcomed the following guest speakers: Yuki Tanaka, Director at ITPS and official of the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, who elaborated on the role of rail stations in reforming the community and society. Holger Dalkmann, Programme Director for Climate Change and Sustainable Transport (TRL) linked the issue of sustainable transport to the ongoing negotiations, highlighting the interlinkages between the issues discussed by the previous speakers, including financing, technology and MRV.

Questions from the audience contributed to a vigorous debate, particularly on the carbon footprinting of transport and gave strong support to the EcotransIT methodology.

To discover our presentation, please download this file :

COP-16 Exhibition Stand

UIC also had an exhibition stand at the official COP16 venue, which promoted the UIC Declaration on Sustainable Mobility & Transport, the UIC project Adapting Rail Infrastructure to Climate Change (ARISCC), the online eco-comparison tools EcoTransIT and EcoPassenger, as well as an updated version of the Global Rail Position Paper on Climate Change, which provides an overview of the emissions reductions potential and commitment from the railways.

World Climate Summit in Cancún

The World Climate Summit , the business and finance conference accelerating solutions for climate change, took place in connection with the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 16) in Cancún, Mexico. The objective of the conference is to provide a collaborative platform where relevant stakeholders such as UN Global Compact, OECD, the World Bank, the Prince of Wales and UNEP can convene to collaborate and implement solutions locally and globally for the next 10 years.

UIC, represented by Margrethe Sagevik, Senior Adviser for Sustainable Development, participated in the transport session of the World Climate Summit entitled ‘Transportation – Bringing Mobility Solutions into Scale’, as part of a panel of representatives from the shipping, car, energy, battery and biofuel sectors.

The discussions touched upon several challenges and possible solutions in connection with reducing transport emissions that are growing faster than in other sectors. The panel debated on how solutions for developing countries differ from those that work in developed countries, the implementation of sustainable transport systems and the integration of these transport systems in urban areas. Against this backdrop, Margrethe Sagevik underlined among others the need for brave and visionary decision-making in order to encourage the creation of smart, sustainable transport systems with mass public transport systems as the backbone.

Not only did the conference give UIC the opportunity to interact with more than 100 influential speakers and 300 high-level delegates including Sir Richard Branson, Ted Turner and Lord Nicholas Stern, but also enabled us to communicate with a selection of global and industry media.

The Outcomes of COP 16

COP16 resulted in the Cancún Agreement, which provided fresh optimism for the COP-process and the leading role of the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The Cancún Agreement built on the decisions taken in 2009 in Copenhagen and also set out processes for making further progress in the future. It represented a balanced compromise between different interests within the United Nations system. Key elements of the package included :

  • Acknowledgement for the first time in a UN document that global warming must be kept below 2°C compared to the pre-industrial temperature, and establishment of a process to define a date for global emissions to peak and a global emissions reduction goal for 2050
  • Recognition of the need to increase emissions reductions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries (REDD+)
  • Promotion of low-carbon technology transfer to global south countries
  • Establishment of a $100 billion green fund to assist global south countries in mitigating CO2 emissions

From a transport perspective there was more attention given to transport than ever before in the COP process. The African Development Bank announced a Green Fund with an explicit mitigation window for sustainable transport.

UIC had a paramount visibility as the side event pointed out the important role of rail in transport emissions reductions and future sustainable transport regimes. Continents and the global rail position paper on climate change ‘Keeping Climate Solutions on Track’ was distributed among others to COP16 participants at the frequently visited UIC stand in the exhibition area.

UIC kept on working with the UNFCCC with the COP17.