22. July 2015

“Transport is the climate’s enemy number one”

Pro-Rail Alliance and railway missions respond to Pope’s encyclical

St Peter’s Square pedestrian zone: despite having such a wonderful view, the Pope’s encyclical has the global transport system in its sights.

Berlin, July 22 2015. In spite of the fact that there has been a big response from the global environmental community on the Pope’s encyclical on climate change, there has been only a restrained reaction from the transport sector since the controversial paper was published in June. According to the German lobby group Pro-Rail Alliance, “the Holy Father put his finger in the wound in his encyclical Laudato Si when he described our petrol-driven transport systems as part of a global context of delusion.” With reference to the latest data on the climate from the federal environment ministry, the managing director of the Pro-Rail Alliance, Dirk Flege, said on Wednesday: “ All sectors of the economy – industry, private households, energy producers – have managed to cut their CO2 emissions since 1990. Only the transport sector, the climate’s number one enemy, has not shown any ability to contemplate change.”

Greenhouse gas emissions in Germany

Development in % from 1990 to 2014 -1990 = 100%


Greenhouse gas emissions in Germany. Development in % from 1990 to 2014 -1990 = 100%. Source Pro-Rail Alliance, based on figures from the federal environment agency 17.03.2015. Figure for 2014 = forecast. 1 federal government’s goal: 40% reduction in total CO2 emissions compared with 1990 levels by 2020.

Transport, households, energy, business, trade and services, industry, agriculture
Ziel = Target

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Flege pointed out that after his election as the leader of the Catholic Church in March 2013, the Pope did not get into the waiting Mercedes limousine but took the bus with his cardinals. “When Pope Francis in his encyclical on climate change gives priority to public transport and calls on politicians to expand socially sustainable and environmentally friendly transport networks, this is clearly not someone who preaches abstinence while permanently drinking wine,” said Flege.
The notable lack of response from the transport sector to the Pope’s committed memorandum above all reveals a strategy of ‘business as usual’, which the Pope has also analysed with foresight, said Flege. For example, section 26 of the Pope’s encyclical is a plea for a reduction in energy consumption that would urgently require a turnaround in the transport sector. The Pope wrote: ““Many of those who possess more resources and economic or political power seem mostly to be concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms, simply making efforts to reduce some of the negative impacts of climate change. (…) Some countries have made considerable progress, although it is far from constituting a significant proportion. Investments have also been made in means of production and transportation which consume less energy and require fewer raw materials.”
In section 153, the Pope then explicitly calls for public transport to be prioritised and expanded. “The quality of life in cities has much to do with systems of transport, which are often a source of much suffering for those who use them. Many cars, used by one or more people, circulate in cities, causing traffic congestion, raising the level of pollution, and consuming enormous quantities of non-renewable energy. This makes it necessary to build more roads and parking areas which spoil the urban landscape. Many specialists agree on the need to give priority to public transportation.”
Gisela Sauter-Ackermann, national representative of the Organisation of Church Railways Missions, is also convinced that Jesus and his disciples would be regular rail passengers today. “ The Pope’s message has given our work an enormous boost,” said Sauter-Ackermann. “Humanity’s ego-centric way of thinking over the last hundred years has brought it to the precipice. We now need to cooperate to achieve a global turnaround. Renouncing personal transport and moving towards an environmentally friendly mode of transport that is accessible to all people, such as the railways, could spark off a new sense of community for people’s mobility needs,” said Sauter-Ackermann. “It is wonderful that the Pope has called on all people, Christians and non-Christians alike, to join in the debate. The various stakeholders with social responsibility for providing transport should also participate. Maybe this initiative will help the climate conference in November in Paris to break new ground – especially with regards to transport issues.”

Video: statement by Dirk Flege, managing director of the Pro-Rail Alliance, 0:57 min


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