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Interview with Gunnar Heipp, International Association of Public Transport (UITP)

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Gunnar Heipp, Director of Strategy and Planning, Munich and Chairman of the UITP Sustainable Development Commission 

SLoCaT: Can you briefly describe the commitment that is being announced at the Climate Summit on September 23, 2014?

In response to call by the UN Secretary-General, UITP is inviting its members to show their leadership position on climate change by signing up to a ‘UITP Declaration on Climate Leadership’. It is a call to action to the UITP community to seize the opportunity in tackling climate change. To support the objectives of the declaration, UITP members will also commit to undertake concrete actions to reduce emissions in their city or strengthen climate resilience. In doing so, it will shows our members willingness to act in support of our cities and achieving UITP’s goal to double the market share of public transport worldwide by 2025.

SLoCaT: What motivated your organisation and partner organizations to develop the commitment for the SG's Climate Summit?

By doubling market share, public transport can make a real positive change to quality of life in cities! Taking cars off the road and offering sustainable mobility options will help cities reclaim their place as hubs for trade and business. Fewer cars and more public transport also create a livable and sustainable urban environment and make it possible to stabilize urban transport greenhouse gas emissions despite the massive overall increase in the number of trips made in urban areas.

The good thing is that there are a lot of positive examples from around the world and the declaration aims to showcase what UITP members are doing to make their city more attractive, competitive and rejuvenated.

SLoCaT: What will be the impact of the SG's personal engagement in climate change for your specific commitment?

We strongly welcome that the Secretary General will convene a leaders' summit on climate policy in September in New York, which will no doubt inject important momentum into the talks on a global, binding climate treaty to be concluded 2015.

We hope that with his support and our member’s commitments will provide the inspiration to improve the domestic enabling conditions to shift investment in sustainable transport infrastructure in our cities. If we do that we will scale-up, cooperate and deliver concrete action that will close the emissions gap and put us on track for an ambitious legal agreement through the UNFCCC process.

SLoCaT: Where is your personal inspiration coming from in the work you do on transport and climate change?

The decisions that we take today will be with us for years to come. Successful and sustainable cities don't happen by accident. You get what you plan for. If you plan for attractive, clean, efficient and socially integrated cities with a strong public transport backbone – that is what you should get. But without proper long-term planning and attention, you end up with a sprawling traffic-choked urban mess. We want our commitments to show our sector’s support to climate action at the local level but also to encourage renewed momentum for wider climate action on sustainable transport.

SLoCaT: Anything else that you would like to share on your initiative?

I am very much wishing UN to take a lead in influencing institutions as well as politicians in putting public transport on the top of the climate change agenda as well as on cities agenda. Too often still attention goes to other sectors. In cities, people throughout the whole world are most concretely affected by pollution and climate change. This focus also helps to make clear, that actions towards global climate change activities also show short term local effects towards quality of life. By that, it raises acceptance then other abstract, long term und not city related measures, that often miss the support of many stakeholders.

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