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Posted on on October 28th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (


This from: UNITED NATIONS NEWS SERVICE, 28 October 2009.


A one-time train link between Kyoto and Copenhagen opens up next week – a United Nations-sponsored one-month, 9,000-kilometre journey symbolically joining the site of the last global warming pact with what is hoped to be the birthplace of the next major, and stricter, treaty to combat climate change. 

Launched by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the International Union of Railways (UIC) and the global conservation organization WWF, the Train to Copenhagen – in fact a carriage – will roll across the globe through the vast wilds of Russian Siberia and into Europe as part of the UN Seal the Deal! campaign to galvanize political will and public support for reaching a comprehensive global climate agreement in December. 

Train operators from around the world will participate in the Train to Copenhagen, raising awareness of the impact of the transport sector, which already accounts for over one fifth of global CO2 greenhouse emissions. These emissions are projected to double within only 40 years and railways are crucial in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and developing sustainable transport systems. 

“We are on the road to nowhere if existing policies and economic models prevail with their over-emphasis on private cars and on shifting shipments of goods to the roads,” UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said. “The Train to Copenhagen project is a showcase of sustainable transport solutions that will be part and parcel of a resource-efficient, low-carbon Green Economy of the 21st Century. 

“By Sealing the Deal on an ambitious climate agreement in Copenhagen, governments will get into gear to propel the world to a low-carbon future so that societies may also finally embark on a journey to more sustainable transport.” 

During the journey, environmental experts and climate change campaigners will send eye-witness accounts of global warming signs under way. Siberia is a global climate change hotspot, where thawing permafrost and melting peat bogs could slowly release billions of tons of methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere over coming years. 

The Train will roll out of Kyoto station on 5 November – leaving behind the Japanese city where the Kyoto Protocol that sets binding greenhouse gas reduction targets for 37 industrialized countries and the European Union (EU) was adopted on 11 December 1997 – and make its way by ferry to Daejeon, Republic of Korea (ROK). 

There it will board another ferry for Vladivostok in Russia’s Far East for that vast transcontinental journey to drum up support for a new compact with much stronger cuts to replace the Protocol on the expiration of the first commitment period at the end of 2012. 

Rumbling across Siberia, it will be hauled along the famous Trans-Siberian Railway and go by ferry across Lake Baikal, the most voluminous freshwater lake in the world, and stop in Moscow, the Polish city of Poznan and then Berlin before arriving on 5 December in Brussels, where it will join the Climate Express, which will be powered by 100 per cent renewable energy. 

This Express will take on board more than 400 climate change negotiators, campaigners and other high-profile personalities going to Copenhagen, for a 12-hour on-track conference focusing on how to solve the challenges posed by the transport sector with regard to global warming.  

On arrival, the Climate Express will remain at Copenhagen Central Station throughout the two-week conference, serving as a mobile exhibition open to the public about low-carbon transport solutions.  

“It is clear that business as usual is not an option if we want to reverse current trends and prevent catastrophic climate change,” UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer said. “If we can really integrate the costs of pollution into the price of transportation, rail will be a big winner.” 


* * * 


Although much work remains to be done ahead of December’s climate change conference in Copenhagen, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today said he is optimistic that world leaders will reach an ambitious agreement in the Danish capital. 

Provided that four key benchmarks are decided upon, the gathering will be a success, Mr. Ban told reporters today during his monthly press conference. 

Those four criteria, he said, are: emissions reductions targets by developed countries and enhanced mitigation actions by developing nations; adaptation measures; the provision of financing and technology for poorer nations; and the creation of an equitable global governance structure. 

“We are not lowering expectations” ahead of the Copenhagen meeting, the Secretary-General stressed, noting that he has been working closely with Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, who is holding discussions with governments on the substance and form of an agreement that could emerge from the summit. 

“There is a long way to go still,” he said, with only five weeks to go before that meeting. 

Post-Copenhagen, Mr. Ban emphasized to reporters that countries must endeavour to ensure that any agreements reached during the technical negotiations in Denmark can be built upon to become legally binding. 

Negotiators are set to meet next week in Barcelona, Spain, for the last round of negotiations before the two-week Copenhagen gathering kicks off on 7 December. 

In an opinion article published earlier this week in the New York Times, Mr. Ban wrote that despite the gridlock at the last round of climate negotiations held in Bangkok, Thailand, in early October, “the elements of a deal are on the table.” 

All that is needed to put them in place is political will, he said. “We need to step back from narrow national interest and engage in frank and constructive discussion in a spirit of global common cause.” 

The leadership of the United States in this endeavour, the Secretary-General said, is vital, noting that he is encouraged by last week’s bipartisan initiative in the US Senate. 

“We cannot afford another period where the United States stands on the sidelines,” he emphasized, adding that an “indecisive or insufficiently engaged” US will result in unnecessary and unaffordable delays in tackling global warming. 

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