Evening Reception of International Union of Railways (UIC)

Remarks by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Secretary-General of The 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development

Mr. László Borbély,
Mr. Jean-Pierre Loubinoux,
Mr. Vladimir Yakunin,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Rail transport of goods and passengers is synonymous with development and prosperity, and historically, railways have played a significant role in the evolution of industrialized societies.

Railways offer many economic and environmental benefits – in particular for high volume freight and passenger transport over long distances. Together with other modes of transport, railways will play an important role in mitigating climate change and furthering sustainable development. While some modes of transport are increasing in greenhouse gas emissions, emissions from railway transport are relatively small. For example, in Europe, railways account for less than 3% of CO2 emissions.

In recent years, the International Union of Railways and its members have undertaken many efforts to promote sustainable development around the world. For example, UIC supports the Global Compact and has its own Sustainable Development Unit. Furthermore, as an outstanding commitment to the principles of sustainable development, UIC also recently adopted the UIC Declaration on Sustainable Mobility and Transport, which is why we are gathered here this evening. I commend this testament of your dedication to the principles of sustainability.

Much has been done to make railroads a safe and efficient means of transport. In the majority of industrialized countries, travel by train is comfortable, fast, safe and mostly affordable. However, in most of the developing countries, investment in transport infrastructure, including railways, lags far behind urgent needs. There is great need for more technical and financial cooperation among developed and developing countries.

Many of you may have travelled long distances to come to New York to join the sustainable development policy debate at the Commission on Sustainable Development. I hope that you will find this a useful forum to share your experiences and to identify new ideas and areas of cooperation.

Many times, transport is perceived to be a local or national sustainable development concern. However, the debate during these past few days has clearly shown that transport has many varying dimensions, and there is certainly significant potential for international cooperation.

The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, more commonly known as “Rio+20” will take place in 2012. A “green economy” in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication will be one of its main themes. Options for a “greener economy” would certainly require a “greener transport sector” and a gradual de-coupling of economic growth from transport energy consumption, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Without any doubt, the transport and the railway industries will have an important role to play in the achievement of a “greener economy”. I would encourage you to actively participate in this debate and I look forward to seeing you again in Rio.

I thank Mr. Loubinoux and his UIC team for their generous hospitality.