Speech by Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director
3 July 2008 - Distinguished Delegates, ladies and gentlemen,
Transport is rapidly emerging as the 'problem child' in terms of combating climate change across the world - accounting for 25 per cent of all global greenhouse gas emissions.
The European Union has become the undisputed leader in terms of commitments to tackle climate change, setting a target to cut greenhouse gases by 20 per cent by 2020 - 30 per cent if others follow.
But in the Europe Union, C02 emissions from transport rose by over 30 per cent between 1990 and 2005.
While emissions from other sectors fell by close to 10 per cent.
Passenger cars and vans are responsible for around half the EU's transport emissions.
Gradual improvements in fuel efficiency have been overwhelmed by the increase in the number of vehicles and by other factors such as congestion.
Targets for emissions of 120 grammes/litre, down from 140 gm/litre, first proposed by Germany in 1994, would reduce emissions by 35 per cent.
But these have been postponed three times - so far!
Indeed even the 140 gm/litre target, due to be met by 2008/09 in the EU looks increasingly unlikely at a time when other car makers such as the Japanese are catching up with European levels of fuel efficiency.
Meanwhile, the European Commission is planning to launch its Action Plan on urban mobility in October this year after lengthy consultations - one among many proposals is for a labelling scheme for cities that provide good, green mobility.
At the same time, the pressure on the international community to act more decisively on climate change gathers pace.
Nations from over 190 countries are currently part way through the Bali Action Plan or 'Bali Road Map' - destination the UN climate convention meeting in Copenhagen in late 2009.
Emissions from transport in all its guises, from road to air and maritime transport, are being looked at as never before with the growth in cars, especially in the rapidly developing economies, perhaps the central pre-occupation.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am not a transport planner nor am I an auto-engineer.
But what does seem clear and certain is that the pressures on car makers to rise to the climate change challenge - and other challenges including other pollutants; congestion and noise and the sheer costs of motoring with oil at $140 or so a barrel - will not be going away any time soon.
Indeed, the pressures from governments; city planners; NGOs and the consumer/public for solutions to modern eco-friendly and economically-justifiable mobility will become a permanent fixture - if it has not already happened.
And if the auto-industry cannot find answers themselves, then they will be imposed either by governments or consumer choice.
Perhaps one of the perceptions from the past and indeed the present is that vehicle makers have been followers rather than pioneers of new fuel efficiency standards and innovations as they relate to environmental improvements.
There is a sense that, certainly in Europe and elsewhere in the world, that manufacturers have resisted new emissions rules only to often meet them when they are made law.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In a climate constrained world where the price of carbon will become a deciding and economically central feature, the car companies who adopt creative and high technology strategies are the ones who are likely to survive and thrive.
It is time to get started. Last year's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports gave sound and solid pointers. And there are other 'low hanging' fruit.
By some estimates new technologies can cut fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by a factor of two in road transport without compromising performance.
Options include advanced internal combustion engines, the hybrid family, bio-ethanol with flexfuel vehicles and alternative lower carbon content fuels.
Looking a little more forward options could include even more efficient Internal Combustion Engines (ICEs), plug-in hybrids, electric vehicles powered by new generation batteries, second generation biofuels as well as synthetic fuels. Fuel cell and hydrogen powered systems and so on.
European engineering and technical know-how can either lead these developments or be overwhelmed by them.
But ladies and gentlemen, the real prize is to integrate private transport with the wider mobility agenda - in delivering not a car culture but a mobility one in which the love affair is getting from point A to point B in the fastest, cheapest and most environmentally friendly manner.
One route might be to re-define the business model - some oil companies have transformed themselves into energy companies investing not only in oil but also in renewables including wind and solar power. Others are entering the energy efficiency market and appliances.
Could a similar model be developed for automobile makers?
Turning them into transport companies with business interests or partnerships with rail and coach makers; with alternative fuel developers and even bus, taxi, motorcycle, scooter and perhaps even cycle manufacturers?
How does an auto-maker relate to those who develop roads, can they contribute financially; technologically or intellectually to the need to decongest cities and encourage a greater and more seamless integration between all modes of transport from light rail to walking?
Would their political and social capital rise and could such an auto-maker legitimately offset some of its emissions linked with automobiles via wider and greener mobility schemes in developed but also developing economies?
And how does the industry also relate to such issues as tele-commuting and the use of Information and Communications Technologies - not just in terms of smart engine management, but the wider social possibilities.
According to a report by the UNEP supported Global E-Sustainability Initiative and the Climate Group, launched at the end of June, ICT could deliver annual man-made global emission reductions of 15 per cent by 2020.
Energy efficiency savings to global businesses of over EUR 500 billion (GBP400billion/USD 800 billion) could be realized.
Some of these ideas may sound far fetched. But on World Environment Day under the theme 'Kick the C02 Habit - Transition to a Low Carbon Economy', UNEP launched a guide to low carbon living among other reports.
One suggestion - here covering aviation was to encourage consumers to back campaigns to encourage airlines to give free coach and rail miles instead of free air miles in order to promote switches to more environmentally-friendly forms of transport.
I wondered a little at the idea, only to learn later that this is already happening.
For example some airlines are already collaborating with rail companies on bonus 'miles', including Continental Airlines with the US train company Amtrack and Air France with tgvair, a subsidiary of the French high speed train company.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am pleased that UNEP is here at this 5th Forum and pleased too that some of our previous suggestions - in this case making the event carbon neutral - have moved forward.
I understand that this year's event will be offset via a reforestation project and look forward to seeing if this can be certified under the Gold Standard (BASE).
I would also be keen to explore if the trees involved can be pledged to UNEP and the World AgroForestry Centre's Billion - now seven billion - tree campaign.
Perhaps it is time to explore moving forward on some of these wider fronts, perhaps through the re-vitalization of the UNEP Mobility forum with leading car makers.
And perhaps through previous work on sustainability criteria for biofuels up to pilot projects with cities and urban planners.
The world is changing fundamentally and profoundly - climate change is a threat: a threat to the future of humanity, but equally a threat to those businesses and industries who fail to evolve and to see the wide agendas and vistas unfolding.
Transport and the companies who manufacture 'mobility' products will come under increasing scrutiny and pressure - those who lead can shape their future and the future trajectory of humanity's footprint - heavy and harmful or light and sustainable.