As the lowest contributor to transport emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gasses contributing to Climate Change, EU policy makers look to shift passenger and freight traffic from the air and road to rail

The volume of global transport could double or even quadruple by 2050, with baseline projections seeing global CO2 emissions from surface transport grow by 80% by 2050. In the EU, the transport sector accounts for around a third of EU greenhouse gas emissions. This makes it the second biggest greenhouse gas emitting sector after energy. While greenhouse gas emissions in other sectors decreased significantly between 1990 and 2009, emissions from transport increased 28% during the same period; all transport modes increased their total emissions, except railways.

The 2011 White Paper “Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area – Towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system” emphasised that a reduction of at least 60% of 1990-level GHGs by 2050 is required from the transport sector. As a mode with average specific emissions at least 3-4 times lower than road or air transport, rail plays a crucial role in achieving the this ambitious objective. Therefore, a modal shift from road and air to rail as the most environmentally friendly mode of transport is the only way forward. Modal shift must be supported by long-term strategies and policies supporting sustainable mobility growth, especially in the cities of emerging regions. Mounting funding problems only reinforce the importance of pricing mechanisms such as road charging, both for revenue generation and demand management.

Source: EEA1 (2012) and SULTAN Illustrative Scenarios Tool2

As it is widely accepted that the consequences of climate change are advancing, there is already a need for the railway sector to develop and implement adaptation strategies and measures. Railways must be resistant to extreme weather conditions, but also to recover from them in a short time and to operate in more extreme circumstances than today. Products supplied by UNIFE members are currently designed to cope with very different climate conditions in various areas of the world. While UNIFE considers that no changes in the current regulatory framework are necessary, intensive work should be carried out on standardisation to adapt the European railway system to foreseeable climate changes.

UNIFE also managed joint activities and initiatives with other transport organisations (UIC, UITP, etc), such as participation in events that aim to raise awareness of decision-makers on low carbon transport in a growing urbanisation context. For instance, UNIFE has participated in several annual Conferences of Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change; most recently in December 2015 at COP21 in Paris. During COP21, UNIFE participated in ‘Transport Day’, organised by the Sustainable Low Carbon Transport (SLoCaT) Partnership and the Paris Process for Mobility and Climate (PPMC); and sponsored the UIC Train to Paris initiative which brought transport leaders from around the world to COP21 by rail transport.

UNIFE links
UNIFE brochure UNIFE's Key Messages for COP21
UNIFE Position Paper A 2030 Framework for Climate and Energy Policies
UNIFE brochure On Track to a Greener Transport Future
CER-UIC-UNIFE brochure Megatrucks versus rail freight?

External links
Sustainable Low Carbon Transport (SLoCaT) Partnership
European Commission’s DG Climate Action website European Environment Agency website


For more information, please contact:
Tommaso Spanevello
Public Affairs Manager
+32 2 642 23 29

1Based on historic data from the EEA’s GHG data viewer, downloaded from EEA’s website 10/02/12
2Projections based on data from the SULTAN Illustrative Scenarios Tool (BAU-a scenario) and historic data from DG MOVE (2011) EU energy and transport in figures Statistical Pocketbook 2011 Luxembourg, Publications Office of the European Union, 2010