Sustainable Rail, Air, Electric Vehicles and Urban Public Transport Mobilized at Climate Summit

Shift to low-carbon mobility could save up to US$70 trillion in fuel costs

New York, 23 September—Four global transport alliances launched or advanced initiatives that aim to significantly scale-up proven low carbon transport technologies. Announced at today’s Climate Summit, these initiatives would increase the number of electric vehicles on the road, increase the efficiency of rail transport and air travel, and provide sustainable public transportation options around the world. 

According to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a shift towards sustainable transport is essential to prevent greenhouse gas emissions by transport from doubling by the middle of the century and to achieve the internationally agreed goal of a maximum 2 degrees Celsius rise in global average temperature. Transport contributes about one quarter of energy-related global GHG emissions and about one fifth of energy use. Under a ‘Business as Usual’ scenario, energy use and GHG emissions are projected to rise by nearly 50 percent by 2030 and by more than 80 per cent by 2050 (from 2009).
These initiatives can help put the transport sector on a new track towards a low-carbon future and save trillions of dollars in fuel costs in the process. The International Energy Agency estimates that a shift to sustainable, low-carbon transport by the middle of the century could save governments, companies and individuals up to US$70 trillion.
“I am glad to see action that builds strong global alliances in the transportation area,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “These initiatives will help reduce carbon emissions and make urban areas more efficient and productive and healthier places to live and work.”
A new Urban Electric Mobility Initiative (UEMI) was launched in New York to increase the number of electric vehicles in cities to least 30 percent of all new vehicles sold on annual basis by 2030 while simultaneously developing the enabling infrastructure for their effective use. The initiative is supported by private companies including BYD, Mahindra Reva, and Michelin, one of the two largest tire manufacturers in the world, as well as UN-Habitat. “Mobilizing support from the private sector is vital to enable us to implement technological breakthroughs in urban mobility” said UN-Habitat Executive Director of Joan Clos.
The International Union of Railways (UIC) – with 240 members worldwide including the major railways of Europe, China, Russia, India and the US – launched the Low-Carbon Sustainable Rail Transport Challenge.  In the Association’s green growth agenda framework, the UIC aims to increase rail use for freight and transport and meet ambitious targets for increased efficiency and emission reduction of 50 percent each by 2030 and 60 and 75 percent, respectively, by 2050. These targets were unanimously approved at the UIC General Assembly in June 2014 in the lead up to the Summit; and UIC will monitor and report the progress by the rail sector towards achieving these goals.
 “We expect this initiative to result in 75 per cent reduction of carbon dioxide emissions from rail transport by 2050. In total, we aim to save over one gigatonne of carbon emissions globally through improved energy efficiency and through building partnerships,” said Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, Director General of the International Railway Association.
The International Association of Public Transport (UITP) Declaration on Climate Leadership resulted in over 350 commitments and actions from 110 public transport entities being undertaken in the lead up to the Summit. These actions contribute to UITP’s objective of doubling the market share of public transport around the world by 2025, announced at the Rio+20 Conference in 2012. UITP brings together 1,300 member organizations from 92 countries. Most commitments for the Summit aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through a host of measures, from increasing the number of new bus and metro lines to introducing car and bike sharing in countries around the globe – from Germany to Japan and from Colombia to Lebanon.
In the fourth announcement, governments under the auspices of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the aviation industry, represented through the cross-industry Air Transport Action Group (ATAG), stepped up commitment and partnerships to achieve the ultimate objective of a sustainable international aviation sector, and in particular to reach the industry’s long-term existing global goal to halve net CO2 emissions by 2050 compared to 2005 levels. 
As part of this commitment, in advance of the Summit and after, ICAO and ATAG are supporting the development of sustainable alternative fuels for aviation as well as the deployment of new technology for aircraft and operational improvements to ensure increased efficiency in the industry. They are working with partners to develop a global CO2 standard for new aircraft and to design and implement a global market-based measure for international aviation for implementation from 2020 onward. Over 100 actions by partners and industry leaders – including Virgin Atlantic and Thai Airways – have been launched or scaled up since the Secretary-General’s call to action for the Summit in Sept 2013.
These announcements forms part of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s call to keep global temperature increases to less than two degrees Celsius by reducing emissions, moving money, pricing pollution, strengthening resilience and mobilizing new coalitions. This is one of eight areas identified as critical and further developed during the Abu Dhabi Ascent, a two-day meeting held in the United Arab Emirates in May 2014.
View the Joint Action Statements and Action Plans for the Transport Action Area at to learn the details of the commitments and the partners.
Hashtag: #climate2014
Contacts: UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Mohammed Salamat,; International Railway Association: Marie Plaud,; International Association of Public Transport: Andrew Canning,