Cooperation with the United Nations

Promoting railways as a part of the solution to meet the global challenges of mobility and sustainable development with strategic partners.

The mission of the UIC is to promote rail in order to meet the global challenges of mobility and sustainable development.

The UIC is the only railway organisation fully accredited with the key United Nations organizations dealing with sustainable development and climate change.

UIC Low Carbon Rail Transport Challenge

UIC presented the “UIC Low Carbon Rail Transport Challenge” initiative during the UN Climate Summit in New York

This initiative responds to the United Nations Secretary General’s call to bring bold pledges to the Climate Summit. This Summit, held on 23 September 2014 in New York brought together leaders from Government, private sector and civil society with the aim of catalysing climate action and raising political ambition for a meaningful global legal agreement by 2015.

Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, UIC Director General, recently appointed by the United Nations Secretary General as Member of the High-level Advisory Group on Sustainable Transport, presented this initiative. He said:

Climate change is the defining issue of our times. Rail offers an important part of the solution because of its very low carbon intensity. Based on expert analysis of transport energy consumption and carbon emissions by the International Energy Agency, UIC has set three targets; improve efficiency, decarbonise power and achieve a more sustainable balance of transport modes.


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These targets are designed to both catalyse action and highlight progress by the rail sector:

To reduce specific final energy consumption from train operations by:

  • 50% reduction by 2030 (relative to a 1990 baseline)
  • 60% reduction by 2050 (relative to a 1990 baseline)

To reduce specific average CO2 emissions from train operations by:

  • 50% reduction by 2030 (relative to a 1990 baseline)
  • 75% reduction by 2050 (relative to a 1990 baseline)

To achieve this, the global rail sector is taking action; developing electrification, improving load factors, procuring more efficient rolling stock, developing energy and traffic management systems and efficient driving.
Regenerative braking, returning breaking energy to the grid, is now state of the art. Advanced traffic control allows optimised train movements and speed profiles.
In the UK, a reduction of over 2000 K tonnes of carbon will be achieved in 10 years through the installation of Driver Advisory Systems on both diesel and electric trains.
Experience in Norway has shown reductions in energy consumption of up to 15% following the installations of energy meters on trains. Meters on trains are now compulsory in Germany. 25,000 energy meters will be installed on trains in Europe by 2020.

The electrified rail system is immediately compatible with renewable energy. The European rail sector has doubled its use of renewable electricity between 2005 and 2010, now accounting for 28% of all electric traction. There are entire rail networks in Scandinavia, Switzerland and Austria where the electricity used is almost entirely carbon free.

Rail companies choose to pay a premium price for electricity so that they can support investment in renewable energy. For example, the Dutch railway brokered a special deal so that from 2018 they will only use electricity supplied from new sources of renewable energy.

UIC is seeking to scale up this action through increasing rail’s market share at the expense of high carbon transport. The UIC initiative proposes a third target related to modal shift:

Rail share of passenger transport (passenger/km) to achieve a:

  • 50% increase by 2030, relative to a 2010 baseline
  • 100% increase, a doubling by 2050, relative to a 2010 baseline

Rail share of freight land transport (tonne/km) to be:

  • equal with road by 2030
  • and 50% greater than road by 2050

This challenge is designed to be ambitious but achievable in a green economy perspective; this means developing new patterns of growth rooted in a more sustainable balance between transport modes.

The rail sector has already made good progress; energy intensity has reduced by one third between 1990 and 2010.

UIC is seeking to building partnerships to support the right policy environment. Scaling up requires enabling actions and green investments by national governments and transport authorities.

This includes investment in high speed rail to reduce road and air traffic and new freight corridors to meet support economic development. It also requires important investment in existing assets; the removal of bottlenecks, modernisation of signalling systems, increasing of axial loads and loading gauges at strategic locations, promoting inter-modality for freight (eg by developing dry ports) and passenger traffic (better stations, and connections to wider public transport networks).

UIC calls for the internalisation of external costs so that transport users are presented with representative price signals. It is vital to harness private capital and innovation by providing the right environment for public private partnerships.

UIC welcomes the confirmed support received for this initiative from Governments, including the United Kingdom, the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC), the International Energy Agency, and the private sector including UNIFE, Siemens, Bombardier and Alstom.

Low Carbon Rail Challenge Technical Report

UIC, the International Railway Association, has announced a transport sector challenge in the framework of the green growth agenda and climate change perspective for 2030 and 2050. This challenge sets out ambitious but achievable targets for (...)

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Low Carbon Rail Transport Challenge - Action plan

- PDF - 715.4 kb

Modal Shift - Register of modal shift projects 2015-2050

Modal Shift: The second pillar of the challenge concerns shifting transport activity towards low carbon rail transport (modal shift). The targets are informed by the International Energy Agency (IEA) transport analysis and constitute a key component (...)

- Excel - 27.5 kb


United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)

The United Nations ECOSOC is the division of the UN that is responsible for sustainable development. Since 2011, UIC has been very active in ECOSOC to promote railways as a key solution to sustainable transport, and sustainable development in general.

In 2011, UIC successfully influenced the Commission on Sustainable Development to include favourable text on railways in their report on Transport.

UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

UIC has been present at annual UNFCCC negotiations for over 10 years, consistently making the case that railways are the backbone of low-carbon transport systems.

Reports, tools and publications

To engage with this work requires reports, data and tools, which are produced and upated by UIC. The two key reports are:

For more information contact UIC


COP 21 presents the rail sector with an important opportunity, to highlight rail as an energy efficient transport mode and also to demonstrate how investing in rail and increasing rail market share are an essential part of the solution to climate change. At COP 21, UIC will build upon its success at the UN Climate Summit in 2014 where it was launched the UIC Low Carbon Rail Transport Challenge.

In a message to the 86th UIC General Assembly, the Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon applauded the contribution of UIC Members to the Climate Summit, acknowledged that sector actions can make a measurable difference and urged to accelerate efforts. “I challenge all railways, especially the major ones, to commit to reporting your progress in an open, transparent manner. The UIC’s systems are ideally placed to take this step toward creating a better future,” said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. The Railway Climate Responsibility Pledge refers to the “UIC Low Carbon Rail Transport Challenge”, approved by Members in the UIC 2014 General Assembly, and presented in New York UN Climate Summit in September 2014, highlighted by Ban Ki-moon as one of the 3 “key “initiatives for transport”. The Pledge will represent a practical step of the Low Carbon Rail Transport Challenge and show the real commitment of railway companies towards the climate targets. All technical aspects related to the effectiveness and feasibility of the Challenge have been investigated in the document: “Low Carbon Rail Transport Challenge – Technical Report”. The Pledge have been signed by over 65 UIC Members and account for the majority of UIC activities (Passenger km + Tonnes km).
The Pledge will represent a practical step of the Low Carbon Rail Transport Challenge and show the real commitment of railway companies towards the climate targets. is the dedicated website of the Campaign, find all the information you need – especially the Pressroom - here:
Content of the pledge is available here:


After the unprecedented commitment of a large number of Railways in 2015 at the occasion of COP21, the signature of Railway Climate Responsibility Pledge by 70 UIC Members representing the majority of railway activity, and the Paris agreement recently coming into force, several events in Marrakesh will allow UIC to continue to highlight rail as a resilient, low carbon, energy efficient transport mode and also to demonstrate how investing in rail is essential part of the solution to climate change.
Together with leading institutions or partners, such as the International Transport Forum (ITF) of OECD, the International Association of Public Transport (UITP), or the Moroccan and French Railways national ONCF and SNCF, UIC Director General Jean-Pierre LOUBINOUX and UIC representatives attending COP22 participated to the following events:

  • Transport Adaptation to climate change in Africa – Green zone
  • A Transport CEO Round Table on Climate Change – PPMC (Blue Zone, African Pavilion)
  • A UIC/UITP event « Linking Global Initiatives to Concrete Actions on the Ground for Low Carbon Rail and Public Transport » (Green zone – Innovation & Civil Society - Ocean, Transport, Energy
  • A ITF/UITP/UIC event « Charting Pathways to Decarbonise Transport » (Blue zone) You can watch it here:
  • A debate in the Climate Train in Marrakesh train station - organized by SNCF/ONCF: « Major railway projects at the service of climate and sustainable development »
  • A Transport Showcase of COP in the blue zone – mandated by the COP 22 Champion (in the context of Global Climate Action Agenda)
    A green zone side event organized by SNCF « Financements Climat et Mobilité Durable »
  • Transport Day: transport adaptation and resilience breakout session

The High-level advisory group

The High-level advisory group on sustainable transport was created by the previous UN SG Mr Ban Ki-Moon in 2014.

“This body has been responsible for formulating recommendations on sustainable development transport actionable at global, national, local and sector levels.
Core tasks of the Advisory Group have been identified in the integration of sustainable transports in relevant intergovernmental process, the mobilization of actions and initiatives to support sustainable transport with key stakeholders, the launch of a "Global Transport Outlook Report" and the formulation of recommendations on this particular area.” (Source: United Nations)

In 2016, UIC welcomed UN High-level group’s Global Sustainable Transport Outlook report entitled “Mobilizing Sustainable Transport for Development”. The report is available here: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.o...

The Global Sustainable Transport Conference took place for the first time ever in Ashgabat in Turkmenistan from 26 – 27 November 2016.
UIC was represented by Director General, Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, and Nick Craven, Head of the Sustainable Unit.
Mr Loubinoux spoke about railways and SMART grids during the transport energy and transport session. You can watch this discussion following this link:

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Wednesday 3 June 2015