COP22 and public transport: behind the scenes (days 1-3)

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UITP was in Marrakesh over the weekend representing public transport at the COP22 climate discussions. Here you can find day-by-day coverage from behind the scenes as UITP participated in a range of transport-related discussions, a sector that as a whole is responsible for a quarter of the world’s emissions.

Friday 11 November 

Day one at COP22 – hello, bonjour and welcome to Marrakesh. Sustainable transport professionals from across the globe have flocked to the Moroccan city for three days of talks on concreate action the sector can take to combat climate change. Talks at COP21 in Paris focused on finding an agreement: in Marrakesh, the focus is now on action.  
Proceedings began for public transport with the ‘Linking global initiatives to concrete actions on the ground for low carbon and rail public transport’. Bringing together professionals from the public transport and rail industries, this session covered sustainability initiatives with a special focus on Morocco and Africa.
UITP Secretary General Alain Flausch presented the Association’s Declaration on Climate Leadership and the sector’s strategy to double the market share of public transport by 2025. “If we want to tackle this issue, we cannot rely on technology alone,” Mr Flausch argued. “We have to use the ‘avoid, shift and improve’ methods. The first two of which are more effective than technology. Avoiding useless trips and combining urban development and transport planning. We have to convince people to abandon their cars – at least in urban areas - and take collective transport. For this, we need to create viable alternatives for people”.
Amadou Ba, from CETUD, Dakar executive council for urban transport, presented Dakar’s planned BRT system, which is estimated to save a substantial 9,800 tons per year from 2020. Marrakesh is also facing its own issues in terms of mobility and the city shared its plans to improve and develop public transport as well as introduce bike sharing and a fleet of shared electric motorcycles.

Above: Alain Flausch: "We have to convince people to abandon their cars – at least in urban areas - and take collective transport"

Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, Director General of UIC, representing the rail industry, spoke of the industry’s plans to cut emissions by 60% by 2050, making rail “the backbone of sustainable mobility in the new urban mobility mix”. Loubinoux mentioned that the industry has achieved a more than 30% reduction in CO² since 1990. ONCF, the Moroccan national railways, also highlighted its climate efforts, noting that a train passenger emits seven times less CO² than a car traveller.
Meanwhile, at the UNFCCC side event on charting pathways to decarbonise transport, Alain Flausch reminded participants that the transport sector as a whole is still lagging behind on decarbonisation. “The Paris Agreement represents a significant challenge for the transport sector. Transport needs to be decarbonised but it is lagging behind. For instance, even in Europe, electric power will still be minimal in the next ten years. So it is clear that there is no silver bullet for decarbonising the transport sector and we need to embrace a range of strategies that advance the tailored avoid-shift-improve approach to sustainable transport.

Transport needs to be decarbonised but it is lagging behind

“Every time you take public transport rather than a private vehicle, there is a significant reduction in carbon emissions. This emission reduction can be quantified, and ‘Transit Avoided Carbon’ is the carbon emission reduction that results from the use of public transport – resulting in a net decarbonisation of transport emissions. Significant savings can be achieved: for example New York’s public transport 17 million tonnes of carbon through the course of the year, saving eight times more than its produces. When coupled with improved business efficiency the full benefits of Transit Avoided Carbon can be realised”.

The International Transport Forum’s Mary Crass made it clear that transport has a major role to play in meeting the Paris climate objectives and stressed the need for a common vision to decarbonise the transport sector by 2050, with colleague and ITF Secretary-General José Viegas underlined the necessity to take quick action on decarbonisation in order to improve urban air quality.

Saturday 12 November

Day two at COP22 – welcome back to Marrakesh for the COP Action Event on Transport day.

Above: another day at the COP

Discussions today looked at progress made in the implementation of transport initiatives and to examine future plans. Throughout the day, participants debated what the transport sector needs to do in order to achieve the target of limiting temperature rises to 1.5 degrees and how to link transport action to wider climate actions and to the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals.

“Transport does not exist alone, it needs infrastructure,” said Laurence Tubiana, the French Ambassador for Climate Change in the opening words of the day. “We have a big need for infrastructure everywhere. We need to electrify a large part of transport in order to decarbonise, but we also need investment in infrastructure and we see on the financial side that we’re lacking.”  UITP later had a fruitful discussion with Mrs Tubiana in the sidelines about the significant impact that public transport interventions can have on the ground. 

Transport does not exist alone, it needs infrastructure

“The transport sector has made a great start, leading by example and spearheading the development of the broader Global Climate Action Agenda," added Ségolène Royal, French Minister of the Environment, Energy and Marine Affairs, responsible for International Climate Relations. "The 15 non-state actor transport initiatives whose progress are being reported in Marrakesh have such a scope and scale that they are well on the way to triggering a broad transformation of the transport sector, as required to deliver on the Paris Agreement".

Cornie Huizenga, Secretary General of the Partnership on Sustainable Low Carbon Transport, highlighted emissions-reducing initiatives such as UITP’s Declaration on Climate Leadership commitments – 45% of which have already been implemented - and spoke of the need to look at energy supply and financing tools. One of which is in Dakar and Amadou Ba spoke of the Senegalese city’s initiatives to enhance public transport, including the soon to be implemented BRT system, that are planned to double public transport’s modal share in the Senegalese city and help cut carbon emissions.

We also need investment in infrastructure and we see on the financial side that we’re lacking

“Mobility is first and foremost an individual liberty and the basis of trade and commerce,” said Prince Albert II of Monaco, who made an impromptu visit to speak to transport delegates. “The mechanisms we need to set in action are technological, financial but also political, for example in the development of public transport.”

Above: Amadou Ba presenting Dakar's transport plans

Celia Blauel from the City of Paris spoke about concrete implementation in the French capital with significant work being done on: urban planning and reducing the space for cars, which has decreased by 30% over the last ten years; the creation of low-emission zones; the roll-out of electric car-sharing; partnering with other cities in public procurement to purchase low-emissions fleets to send strong signals to the industry and creating incentives, such as free parking for low and zero-emissions vehicles and the provision of electric vehicle charging points.   

Mobility is first and foremost an individual liberty

Meanwhile, in the afternoon’s dialogue segment, UITP Secretary General, Alain Flausch, highlighted the fact the modal split in many cities around the world is not sufficient to meeting the Paris Agreement or Sustainable Development Goals and many policies are “far too focused on the private car”. Mr. Flausch also presented the UN Secretary General’s High Level Advisory Group report’s recommendations, that show that a transformational change to sustainable transport can be realised though current ‘business as usual spending’. A tailored ‘avoid-shift-improve’ approach to assessing transport measures and for taking action could lead to lead to fuel savings, lower operational costs, decreased congestion and reduced air pollution, providing potential savings of $70 trillion by 2050.

Above: UITP Secretary General, Alain Flausch, talking finance

Wrapping up the day’s proceedings was a discussion on financing low carbon transport, looking at the need to find the right financing mechanisms to help develop transport infrastructure that is both efficient and climate resilient. “Public transport has not always been very good at financing and needs to develop in this domain, whether it’s via PPPs, land value capture or the polluter pays principle,” said Mr Flausch.  Though developing infrastructure is an expensive business, cheaper ‘avoid’ or ‘shift’ solutions are at hand, whether it’s smart techniques to manage demand, encouraging working from home or urban congestion charging.

Sunday 13 November

Day three for public transport at COP22 and Sunday might have been a day off for negotiators but discussions continued for sustainable transport at the Transport Day Marrakesh.

Bringing together a broad range of professionals from NGOs, development banks and policy advisors, the Transport Day looked at the transformative action the transport sector as a whole can take to help meet the 1.5 degrees maximum temperature rise target as well as explore opportunities to build alliances between the transport, energy and finance sectors.

The day offered a focus on multimodality and finding ways to cut urban carbon emissions. In (very) fast growing developing cities, the challenge lies in limiting the expected increase in emissions in a context where individual motorisation rates are continuing to rise, together with the growth in economic development. Developed cities, on the other hand are aiming for a drastic reduction in urban transport related emissions.

Urbanisation in Africa offers a fantastic opportunity

“We need to ensure that public transport is a preferred mode compared to private modes such as the car, as this is not only more effective but will help us to cut carbon emissions,” said Amadou Ba from Dakar, whilst also stressing the importance of walking. Yann Mongaburu, Vice-President, Urban Mobility from Grenoble Métropole in France agreed, highlighting how the city considers walking as a starting point and arranges other modes of transport in complementarity. “We allow the car but we’re not building the city around it as we did in the past,” he said.

Above: Alain Flauch in the Africa session 

COP22 has been very much an ‘African COP’ and there was also a session dedicated to transport issues on the African continent. “The problem for mobility in Africa will be tremendous. In Lagos, for example, the problem is already unmanageable," said UITP Secretary General, Alain Flausch. "In Africa, there is first of all a problem of governance. We need institutional frameworks that will allow us to take care of mobility. Without this, you will have informal transport because the market responds to gaps. Data is also a problem and we need to convince governments to invest in this in order to better understand mobility. Urbanisation in Africa offers a fantastic opportunity, though: let’s use it to make more sustainable, compact cities.” 

Find out more on public transport's role at COP22 on our Climate Action information hub.

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