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Decarbonisation – Zero emission mobility starts now!

Decarbonisation, greenhouse gas emissions reduction, energy efficiency and renewable energies have become urgent priorities after the signing of the UN Paris Climate Agreement. Decarbonising transport is part of the vision for the future of a green and healthy mobility.

The Austrian Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management and the Austrian Economic Chamber, in cooperation with the Austrian Ministry of Transport, Innovation and Technology and the Austrian Ministry of Health organised the “International Klimaaktiv Mobil - The PEP Relay-Race Conference”, held in the framework of the Transport, Health Environment Pan-European Programme (THE PEP). Representatives of UNECE member States, international and national governmental and non-governmental organizations, and private businesses attended the event from 13 to 15 July 2016, and discussed current experiences and future ways to work on the decarbonisation of transport.

They aimed at calling for a significant decrease of today´s transport heavy dependency on fossil energy and discussed policies and actions at international and local levels. The presentations and the discussions grouped around three major themes: (i) the need for a holistic approach in future mobility management; (ii) exchange of information about good practices that show that it is feasible to achieve significant CO2 reduction and overall green transport and active mobility; (iii) and innovations that have already proved their viability.

Mr. Robert Thaler, Head of Division of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management opened the Conference on behalf of Mr. Andra Rupprechter, Federal Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management. Ms. Eva Molnar, Director of the Sustainable Transport Division, and Mr. Marco Keiner, Director of the Environment Division represented the UNECE at the Conference. Ms. Piroska Östlin, Director, Division Policy and Governance for Health and Well-being, attended on behalf of the WHO Regional Office for Europe. The three Directors represent the three sectors (Transport, Environment and Health) composing THE PEP and jointly working towards green and healthy mobility and transport for sustainable livelihoods for all.

About the topic of the Conference, Ms. Östlin commented: “Led by Austria, THE PEP Partnership on Eco-Driving can yield both climate and health benefits. In addition to reducing the effects of climate change, decarbonising transport can reduce ambient air pollution, which in the WHO European Region causes approximately half a million deaths per year.”

Talking about THE PEP activities, Mr. Keiner recalled the recent event organised by THE PEP at the Eighth Environment for Europe Ministerial Conference (Batumi, Georgia, 8-10 June 2016). “Riding towards green economy: cycling and green jobs” took place on the first day of the Batumi Conference, with participation and a generous financial contribution from Austria. He said “The aim of the event was to highlight the advantages of cycling for a green economy, in particular, green jobs, health and clean air.” He added further, “The presentation by Austria on the Pan-European Master Plan for Cycling Promotion was very timely in view of this important THE PEP Relay Conference Decarbonisation – Zero emission mobility starts now! kindly hosted by the Government of Austria.” Ms. Molnar pointed out that UNECE countries have already managed to decouple economic growth and CO2 emissions; however these countries are also the ones that are responsible for a very high share in global GHG emissions from inland transport. A recent regional study by UNECE done by using the ForFITs tool also shows that the middle-income UNECE countries are likely to triple CO2 emissions by 2040 unless powerful Actions are put into place. Freight transport will be responsible for most of this increase. Therefore, it is essential to create a level playing field for railways and to facilitate a modal shift from roads. This would not be possible, however, without establishing a unified rail legal regime for the contractual conditions with unified liability system and one unique contract.

The conference provided convincing data about the CO2 savings impact of eco-driving in which Austria spearheads training and dissemination. This is also one among the flagship THE PEP partnership areas relevant for any country regardless of their level of development. The pan European Masterplan on Cycling is being developed as well under the related THE PEP partnership and will be finalised for adoption at the 5th High-Level Meeting of THE PEP (Vienna 2019).