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Home > Cooperation with the UN > UIC, UNCSD and Rio+20 > Rio+20 Outcomes

Rio+20 Outcomes

Friday 7 September 2012

The Earth Summit was the most important event of the decade, organized between the 13 and the 22 of June 2012. Two months after this paramount conference, we can start analazing possible outcomes :

UIC at Rio+20

Promoting railways worldwide as a low- carbon transport solution is one of the UIC’s missions; thus, it is no surprise that the UIC attended the most important sustainable development event of this decade, the Earth Summit, organized by the United Nations and held in Rio de Janeiro from the 13 to the 22 of June 2012. The summit attracted a large number of key stakeholders and, therefore, gave us the possibility to underscore that railways can address climate change issues. To see the events we organized and their outcomes, please visit: http://uic.org/spip.php?article2872

Now we can assess the outcomes of Rio+20 wondering what are the perspectives for transport (especially for the rail sector). It is pleasant to see that, within the UN and other stakeholders, there is a will to change and address the sustainability issues in general, and also in the field of transport.

The future we want : role of transport

The future we want

The United Nations published a report entitled “The Future We Want” that establishes UN priorities for sustainable development and provides a framework for action. Even if many stakeholders considered the report to be disappointing, as they mostly “acknowledge”, “recognize” and “encourage”, and they do not often “commit”, we can be happy with the outcomes for transport. To read it, please click here.

The important role of transport for sustainable development is emphasized. Article 132 reads “transportation and mobility are central to sustainable development” and further insists on the “importance of environmentally sound, safe and affordable transportation”. UIC’s members can provide this kind of transportation, being the safest and lowest carbon mode of transport. Moreover, Article 133 mentions that they “support the development of sustainable transport systems, including energy efficient multi-modal transport systems”. The railways absolutely match these criteria.

Role of SLoCaT

This has been made possible thanks to the role played by SLoCaT, the partnership on Sustainable Low Carbon Transport because they insisted in showing to the CSD that sustainable transport was a paramount topic to be discussed at Rio+20. Since the initial publication of the Zero draft of the outcome document the SLoCaT partnership wrote 3 letters to the UNCSD focal points, organized a range of side events during the negotiations leading up to Rio+20, and conducted a series of outreach meetings with key stakeholders on the Rio+20 process. Thanks to this work, sustainable transport is now admitted and associations like ours can work with the UN on the field of sustainable development as their definition of sustainable transport matches the definition of railways. See SLoCaT Website for more information about this partnership.

Moreover, the Future We Want is a success compared to Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation because the need for action and scaling-up is now expressed.

High Level Political Forum

The framework of action is to be decided when the “High Level Political Forum” is launched.

This forum is to progressively replace the Commission for Sustainable Development, a functional commission of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), with 53 members, which has worked hard for the past 20 years to implement sustainable development following the first Rio Earth Summit in 1992. The UIC had the privilege to work with the CSD in its 19th session, which focused on transportation, and at which we launched the UIC Declaration on Sustainable Mobility and Transport. For more information, please visit : http://www.railway-sustainability.org/spip.php?article112. The forum will “build on the strengths, experiences, resources and inclusive participation modalities of the Commission on Sustainable Development, and subsequently replace the Commission”(Article 84), giving fresh energy to sustainable development implementation.

The main purpose of the High Level Political Forum is to “implement sustainable development through a precise agenda” (Article 85). The means of action will be, among other things, the sharing of best practices and the forum will provide a dynamic platform for regular dialogue. Finally the Forum will encourage high-level system-wide participation of United Nations agencies, funds and programmes and other financial stakeholders. The first meeting is to take place at the beginning of the sixty-eighth session of the Assembly, according to Article 86. UIC is to follow-up the decisions taken by this forum, with the aim of reinforcing our presence in the UN nations.

Sustainable Development Goals

The Forum will certainly rely on the Sustainable Development Goals to take actions and decisions. According to the Article 248 of “The Future We Want”, these goals are to be established “by an open working group which shall be constituted no later than at the opening of the sixty-seventh session of the Assembly and shall comprise 30 representatives, nominated by Member States from the five United Nations regional groups. At the outset, this open working group will decide on its methods of work, including developing modalities to ensure the full involvement of relevant stakeholders and expertise from civil society, the scientific community and the United Nations system in its work, in order to provide a diversity of perspectives and experience. It will submit a report, to the sixty-eighth session of the Assembly, containing a proposal or sustainable development goals for consideration and appropriate action.” In a word, actions and decisions are to be taken and we will try to be part of this important process.

So, no matter how weak the document can sound, it remains an opportunity for UIC to promote railways as a sustainable way of transport that can fit the UN requisites. There are more opportunities to be found after Rio+20 with the voluntary commitments.

Voluntary commitments: perspectives for railways

Our Commitment

If the political agreement reached at Rio+20 was somewhat underwhelming, there were still reasons to be positive about the overall outcome of the talks. The “bottom-up strategy” was given fresh impetus and energy – this means that civil society, associations, NGO, banks, take initiatives first and these projects and actions then orient the political decisions. We can affirm that Rio+ 20 was a success from this point of view, with 747 voluntary commitments on various fields such as food security, forests, ocean, and of course, sustainable transport. 18 sustainable transport commitments were made at Rio+ 20, including our UIC declaration on sustainable mobility and transport.
To see our commitment online, please see : http://www.uncsd2012.org/index.php?page=view&type=1006&menu=153&nr=78

The Development Banks Commitment

The most interesting commitment is the one made by 8 development banks that are to provide $175 billion in grants and loans for sustainable transport. Precisely, these banks are the African development bank, the Asian development bank, the Latin American Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Investment Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Islamic Development Bank, and the World Bank.

The banks acknowledge the paramount role of sustainable transport and want to implement it. Their objective is to facilitate the access for transport and mobility for the poor and reduce transport related GHG emissions. They want to achieve this goal by implementing the avoid-shift-improve paradigm, i.e. avoid the need for travel by better physical planning and logistics, shift to energy efficient transport modes, and improve energy efficiency through use of better technologies. Once again, railways match all these criteria and it is very likely that, as soon as the banks set their targets (before the end of 2012), we can become partners with them. For more information, please see their official press release: http://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/news/statement-commitment-sustainable-transport.pdf

There are other transport voluntary commitments that may draw our attention. To learn more about these please go to:


The perspectives for railways after Rio+ 20 are more interesting, and we look forward to see what we can concretely do in the next two years. To do so, we will watch the development of the High Level Political Forum, see what the Sustainable Development Goals are, follow the implementation of the Voluntary Commitments, particularly the one of the Development Banks, which can really help us create a more sustainable world for all.