On the train to COP25: a public transport journey

    Thursday, 05 December 2019

    The International Association of Public Transport advocates for public transport at every turn, and as Secretary-General of the International Association of Public Transport, I’m walking the talk- by taking the train all the way to COP25 in Madrid.

    Yesterday, on Tuesday, 3 December, I boarded a train from Paris, bound for Madrid and the global climate discussions at COP25. In order to place a further spotlight on the need to show what public transport brings to the debate over climate change and climate action, I jumped aboard the train headed for Spain. I decided to share my musings with those who have taken an interest in UITP’s climate activities to place public transport at the heart of the political agenda along the way.

    A few months ago, it was my pleasure to write my first contributing piece to The Brussels Times on the inspiration we’ve all taken from the actions of Greta Thunberg. The spotlight she has placed, alongside many other impressive young people around the world, is inspiring, and I’m determined to do my part to keep public transport at the centre of the climate discussions.

    Like me, I am sure many of the COP25 participants were excited to discover Chile when the COP25 location was originally announced. But the change of location doesn’t prevent us from being happy about going to Madrid.

    I actually don’t think we would have found time to visit Santiago considering the busy programme of the event. It’s also good to see that there are some positive effects I couldn’t have experienced travelling to Chile: I could now travel by train to the COP and actually walk the talk about decarbonising transport!

    It will be my first participation in the COP. I am so excited to be in such a planetary event and curious to see how it will be. We speak so much about it that every one of us has certainly imagined how it will look. My excitement is also because I’ll be making a contribution to the debate, participating in sessions with, of course, a modest impact on the whole event, but a huge impact for me; a small step for mankind, but a giant leap for me.

    I have been working on the energy and environmental impacts of transport since the first day of my professional career, more than 30 years ago. I had the chance to observe how the perception of this environmental dimension has evolved over many years; how policy decision-makers are increasingly embracing it, how some industrial lobbies have tried to manipulate the general opinion, how influencers from all sides are advocating their positions.

    And how Greta Thunberg put the climate emergency on the top of the political agenda by highlighting climate scientists and their work. The mobilisation has never been so important. Let’s see if the intention will lead to action.

    In UITP, we have been emphasising the environmental benefits of public transport, particularly walking and cycling, for many years. We have empirical evidence of what we are preaching for.

    Our members are leading the movement for cleaner and greener cities. Our recent ‘One Planet, One Plan‘ campaign promotes sustainable mobility and calls on policy decision-makers to recognise the major role public transport plays on both local air pollution and climate change. Many mayors and policymakers have endorsed it. Others will do it with us in Madrid.

    We only have one planet, and we only need one plan, so as I begin my part in the COP25 activities, I’m encouraged by what I hear so far, and I know that what we do today, will impact us all tomorrow.

    I can’t wait to join the discussion in Madrid.

    Mohamed Mezghani