COP22: here’s why it’s important for public transport

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The landmark climate agreement reached at COP21 in Paris last year was a significant milestone for the public transport sector and preparations are now in full flow for the next meeting, COP22, in Marrakesh from 7-18 November 2016.

In the build up to COP21, national governments made public their plans for climate action. Nearly all of the 195 plans indicated action on transport emissions whilst 70, however, included specific pledges to develop public transport, the development and delivery of which UITP’s members will ultimately be responsible for.

For example, Japan is aiming for railway energy consumption efficiency improvements, while Jordan is planning to boost public transport’s modal share to 25% by 2025 and Gabon has planned developments of public transport, particularly in its capital, Libreville. Many of the other plans will require technical assistance which is where UITP can help countries deliver on their commitments.

What’s the current state of play?

COP21 in Paris was such a landmark because for the first time a deal was reached by 195 nations to combat climate change, pledging to keep global temperature rises in the 21st century to well below 2 degrees Celsius. UITP welcomed the deal, but warned at the time that the real work was still to come in order to meet the two degrees goal.

In 2018, countries will need to review their climate strategies, looking back at what they pledged versus what still needs to be done to meet the Paris Agreement and see if the two match up.

The Agreement was given a significant fillip in September as the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, the USA and China, announced their intention to formally ratify the deal, a move soon followed by the EU and India. The UN has now declared that it has been ratified by a sufficient number of countries to come into effect next month.

What’s at stake in Marrakesh?

Whilst COP21 was all about the tireless legwork of thrashing out a deal, COP22 marks the start of the nuts and bolts policy discussions on how countries are actually going to go about implementing the Agreement.

As UITP’s Declaration on Climate Leadership demonstrates, the public transport sector is committed to tackling climate change head on and its proactive mobilisation is already having a significant impact on the ground.

In New York, the city’s largest ever energy-efficiency project will reduce emissions by 11,200 tonnes a year

For example, in Belgium’s Flanders region, the public transport operator, De Lijn, is rolling out a fleet of 138 hybrid buses that will save 3,500 tonnes of CO², whilst in New York, the city’s largest ever energy-efficiency project will reduce emissions by 11,200 tonnes a year. Supported by over 350 pledges from more than 110 members in 80 cities around the world, the Declaration details how a greater role for public transport will help cities and regions reduce their carbon footprints.

“Importantly, around 70 countries have identified specific action on public transport in their climate plans: we now need to focus on implementing these commitments as soon as possible," said Gunnar Heipp, Chair of UITP’s Sustainable Development Commission. "The lessons learned from implementing action under the UITP Declaration can provide the much needed technical support to Parties, but also evidence that public transport action produces results.”

The UN Secretary General's High Level Advisory Group on Sustainable Transport, of which UITP Secretary General Alain Flausch is a member, will also publish its own policy recommendations in due course, which will provide timely input to the discussions.

In short, Marrakesh will be an ideal opportunity to boost awareness that public transport is absolutely essential to reaching the goals of the Paris Agreement: without a greater shift to sustainable mobility, this will be increasingly unlikely. 

UITP Secretary General, Alain Flausch (6th from the left) with the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon at the first UN high-level Advisory Group on sustainable transport in New York (2014).

To Marrakesh and beyond

As it stands, the current modal share of public transport in many cities around the world is not compatible with meeting the Paris Agreement or the future sustainable development agenda.

In the years to come, public transport will be called upon to increase its service offering, which will require massive investment across the globe. This investment will also help to stimulate urban economies and provide lasting local employment. Public transport is central to avoiding or reducing trips, shifting to more sustainable transport and improving the efficiency of mobility as a whole whilst at the same time improving its own already excellent environmental record.  

Expanded public transport systems will need to become the backbone of sustainable urban transport networks

The transport sector as a whole is a major carbon emitter and it’s clear that expanded public transport systems will need to become the backbone of sustainable urban transport networks. At both the Marrakesh discussions and beyond, UITP and its members are well equipped to support the implementation of national pledges and ensure the quality and scale needed to fight climate change and deliver a better, more sustainable future for all.

Stay tuned for more on the COP in the build-up to the event in November. In the meantime, find out more about UITP’s role in the fight against climate change.


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