of the Climate Neutral Network. Among its commitments are a 30 per cent reduction in railway emissions by 2020, compared with 1990 levels.
One of the key initiatives of the UIC’s climate programme is the development of the website www.ecopassenger.org, which allows travellers to compare the emissions associated with a journey to any European destination using road, rail and air transport.
Surprisingly, it does not always come down in favour of the train. “It was so honest that it was not very popular with some of our marketing managers,” admits the UIC’s Margrethe Sagevik.
For example—and you can check this out by playing around with the site—a trip from Berlin to Warsaw is calculated to emit 56 kg of CO2
with single occupancy. But put two people in the car, and road transport comes out better than rail, at 48 kg per passenger.
Of course the comparison will vary greatly according to where the journey takes place, and what type of car engine is being used. Margrethe Sagevik argues it was important to make the comparison as fair as possible, including an assessment of the full life-cycle of the fuel used, from well to wheel, even if this analysis does not always make her industry look very green.
“With this tool, we would like, in addition to contributing to informed transport choices, to create awareness around the challenges connected with measuring the energy and emissions performance of transport modes,” says Sagevik.
“In principle, the dependency of the emissions performance of electric trains on the energy that is being fed into them, also means that when renewable energy is available, electric trains provide a mass public transport system that can be zero emissions overnight.”
In fact, one of UIC’s member companies, Deutsche Bahn, is already offering emissions-free travel on its network. For a small surcharge, corporate clients can guarantee the power for their journey comes from 100 per cent renewable sourc- es. DB undertakes to replace all the non-renewable energy used on business trips with power from an “eco pool” it has set up, using clean forms of generation in Germany.
14 per passenger by train, and 96 kg by car
Probably even less likely than a carbon-neutral motorway is a carbon neutral airline – but the network has one of them, too.
Nature Air, a regional airline based in Costa Rica specializing in ecotourism, commits to offset all its emissions through the protection of tropical forests in the country. Since 2004, it has been using the Costa Rica’s Environmental Services Payment Programme to protect more than 150 hectares of primary forest in the south of the country in an ecological corridor.
The airline’s commercial director Alexi Huntley Khajavi says, “We are not simply planting trees in a park, we are protecting some of the last tropical forests in a biologically imperative area of the world. So our efforts of climate neutrality are more than just mitigating our footprint.”
The aviation industry as a whole is increasingly looking at slashing its carbon footprint. The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents all major passenger and cargo airlines in the world, has recently pledged carbon- neutral growth from 2020, and halving emissions by 2050 from 2005 levels.
The industry is also pushing for aviation to be included in the future climate regime so that its emissions are better accounted for, priced and managed.
Nature Air is also looking for maximum emissions savings within its own operations. Khajavi says the key is to balance good business practices with an enlightened environmental approach.
“The goal is to be a good company offering quality products at competitive prices. A climate-neutral bad airline does not do the world any good.
“That being said, a good airline that is doing positive things environmentally and socially has a lot of leverage to do more good and be more profitable.
“To other transport companies, we say get on the bus or get run over, sustainability and climate change and emissions reductions are not going away.”