Themes: Environment
28. November 2015

“Electric transport exists, politicians must get on board”

UN climate summit: Pro-Rail Alliance on the ICE train to Paris

Destination Paris: trains from every direction are heading to Paris.

Berlin, 28.11.2015. While environmental politicians from all over the world are heading to the UN climate summit in Paris to hear uncomfortable truths about global transport’s detrimental effects on the environment, the multinational rail sector is presenting itself as part of the answer to the question: how can the transport sector manage to reverse the trend of ever-increasing emissions that make it the world’s worst climate offender? “With trains,” stated the International Union of Railways (UIC) during the “Train to Paris” campaign. Twelve climate friendly high-speed trains, travelling from Peking, Ulan Bator, Moscow, London, Berlin and other major cities, are transporting high-ranking politicians, dignitaries and environmental activists to the summit in the French capital. At the same time they are also clearly making a point: the future should not belong to the combustion engine and fossil fuels, but to electric vehicles and public transport. The German Pro-Rail Alliance demonstrated just what that means on board Deutsche Bahn’s Climate ICE train.

Video: Train to Paris (German, 6:14 min)

“Worldwide, CO2 emissions from transport could double again by 2050, but Germany’s CO2 levels do not look good either,” said Dirk Flege, managing director of the Pro-Rail Alliance on Saturday on board the ICE from Berlin to Paris. “All sectors of the economy – industry, households, energy – have since 1990 managed to reduce the emissions that damage the environment. Only the German transport sector has not made any progress at all. Its position as the climate’s biggest worry has almost been cast in asphalt for the last 25 years”. Flege warned German policy makers in Paris not to simply hide behind global complexity. “When it comes to transport, every country has to do its homework. An important component for achieving a turnaround already exists – electric rail transport,” he said. “Now politicians just have to get on board by finally exempting the railways from tax burdens, which are now almost unbearable.

Erzbischof Heiner Koch Klima ICE Paris
Archbishop Heiner Koch (second from left) explains the Pope’s position on the environment during the journey to Paris.

For a church podium on the Pope’s environment policies, the Pro-Rail Alliance was happy to welcome the Archbishop of Berlin. On board the ICE to Paris, Heiner Koch played the role of the ‘Pope’s ambassador on the climate’ and discussed climate equality, the social dimensions of environment protection and the moral issues when choosing how to travel with representatives from German train station missions, the central committee of German Catholics and the charity Misereor. Archbishop Koch said Pope Francis was a paragon that he was not equal to. “As an Argentinian the Pope questions the way we live here. This also applies to archbishops and for that I am very grateful.” The managing director of Misereor, Pirmin Spiegel, quoted a pertinent saying from South America on transport choice: “A developed country is not one where the poor travel by car but one in which the rich use public transport.” This would mean that Germany is a developing country when it comes to transport. This summer, the Pope systematically examined the global environmental issues in his encyclical Laudato si and called for public transport to be given priority to help save ‘creation’.

Climate protection - master diplomas for Joachim Knoll, Peter Lorenz and Dieter Nymbach (left to right).

Although climate protection can be expressed in maximum limits and degrees, it is also something that people actually do. For this reason the Pro-Rail Alliance honoured three Deutsche Bahn train drivers for their economical driving, continually saving electricity every day. After several self-styled ‘activists’ had lowered themselves onto the roof of the departing train in Frankfurt on Main station, the ceremony had to be delayed by two hours. Master diplomas were awarded to Joachim Knoll (DB Intercity), Peter Lorenz (DB Regio) and Dieter Nymbach (DB Schenker). “These men are masters of energy efficient driving and have already saved hundreds of thousands of kilowatt-hours of electricity. They have rendered a great service not only to their companies but also to the common good,” said the chairman of the Pro-Rail Alliance, Alexander Kirchner. Federal environment minister Barbara Hendricks also gave a speech in honour of the three exemplary railwaymen Knoll, Lorenz and Nymbach, who as active protectors of the climate were invited to the UIC gala in Paris to mark the start of climate summit.

Examples of hands-on climate protection were demonstrated on board the Climate ICE train by two international companies that are both supporting members of the Pro-Rail Alliance. Rolling stock manufacturer Alstom presented a locomotive system that makes it possible for electric vehicles to use non-electrified lines. Knorr Bremse demonstrated its climate-friendly energy saving technology, which helps to optimise the overall electricity consumption of a moving train.