The Road to Paris: making the case for sustainable urban transport

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An agreement at the COP21 meeting in Paris in December will set an ambitious legal framework coping with climate challenges. A UITP seminar, ‘The Road to Paris: Advancing Climate Change Action with Sustainable Urban Transport,’ organised last week showed that national ambitions agreed in Paris can be achieved by providing a greater role to collective mobility initiatives as public transport is at the forefront of the transition to sustainable mobility.

In her keynote speech, Marie Buchet from the Permanent Representation of France to the EU, agreed that "advocating public transport within the COP21 and the Lima-Paris Action Agenda (LPAA) is clear for everyone." According to the speakers, there is no doubt that cities are fundamental in the fight against climate change. Given that urban transport accounts for around 40% of emissions from the entire transport sector, urban mobility lies at the heart of the fight against climate change and the transition to a resource-efficient and low-carbon urban economy.

While climate change is the fight of the 21st century, urban public transport is our main bullet

MEP Gilles Pargneaux, the Rapporteur behind the recently approved European Parliament's report towards a new international climate agreement in Paris, said: "Promoting sustainable urban transport is critical, particularly in developing countries. While climate change is the fight of the 21st century, urban public transport is our main bullet".

Daniela Rosca, Head of Clean Transport and Sustainable Urban Mobility Unit at DG MOVE, expanded on this argument adding that "public transport is definitely an important part of EU's solutions towards climate change. Yet the fight against climate change should not be perceived as a cost but as an investment in the future".

Representing European public transport operators and UITP members, Jacek Kaznowski, Chief Operating Officer at MZA Bus Company Warsaw stated that "cities have to make more of an effort to tackle the climate change, because it's not only about the national and government level”. The city’s procurement strategy is straightforward, Mr. Kaznowski: “we will invest in 130 electric buses by 2017. We have also recently bought 10 electric buses and 80 new buses featuring photovoltaic panels each with substantial energy and fuel saving potential. This, combined with new cycle paths, increased tram and metro operations and new energy- and noise-friendly depots make Warsaw a truly smart city".

Continuing the discussion, Nicolas Erb, Director of European Affairs at Alstom Transport was pledging for a bigger role for railways in tackling climate change. Yet, he added that "at the corporate level, companies are also starting to make major climate contributions. At Alstom, we are on an optimal track to reach our 2020 goal of reducing the company’s energy footprint by 18% and make all our transport products use 20% less energy, all due to an eco-design policy, a life-cycle perspective and more advanced energy efficiency and recovery systems in both the rail and bus sectors".

Finally, Philip Turner, Sustainable Development Manager at UITP explained that Associated has been heavily involved in the climate change and COP21 negotiations. “We have recently released a UN-acclaimed Declaration on Climate Change where we have gathered 350 climate pledges from 80 cities and 110 UITP members. As shown by this Declaration, public transport is the biggest economic opportunity cities have to date. Given that cities are fundamental in meeting sustainable development goals, public transport's role in driving low-carbon, resilient growth it must be at the forefront of any sustainable urban mobility policy.”

COP21 is just the beginning for a broader change

MEP Jan Olbrycht, President of the URBAN Intergroup concluded that "the work will really start only after Paris when governments will have to deliver and will be finally held to account. The COP21 is just the beginning for a broader change".

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