The UIC Low Carbon Sustainable Rail Transport Challenge

On the low carbon track


UIC, the International Railway Association is proposing a transport sector challenge in the framework of the green growth agenda and climate change perspective for 2030 and 2050. This challenge sets out ambitious but achievable targets for improvement of rail sector energy efficiency, reductions in GHG emissions and a more sustainable balance between transport modes.


Energy consumption and carbon intensity As a first step of the challenge, the world railway sector has set itself ambitious 2030 and 2050 targets for energy consumption and CO2 emissions:

  • Reduction in specific final energy consumption from train operations: 50% reduction by 2030 (relative to a 1990 baseline) 60% reduction by 2050 (relative to a 1990 baseline)
  • Reduction in specific average CO2 emissions from train operations: 50% reduction by 2030 (relative to a 1990 baseline); 75% reduction by 2050 (relative to a 1990 baseline). These targets will be achieved by railway companies across the world through electrification of existing lines, decarbonization of electricity supply, improving load factors, procurement of more efficient rolling stock, energy management systems and efficient driving.[1]
  • Railway share of passenger transport (passenger/km): 50% increase by 2030 (relative to a 2010 baseline) 100% increase (doubling) by 2050 (relative to a 2010 baseline)
  • Railway share of freight land transport (tonne/km): equal with road by 2030 50% greater than road by 2050

[1] The targets were discussed and unanimously approved at the UIC General Assembly on 27 June 2014 (including the major railways of Europe, China, Russia, India & the USA). The targets are informed by the International Energy Agency (IEA) transport analysis and constitute a key component required to achieve the 2 degrees scenario (2DS) referenced also by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Partners and Signatories

The UIC challenge is supported by UIC’s 240 member railway companies based in 95 countries worldwide. The Climate Responsibility Pledge was signed by more than 70 members of UIC.

Activities of the Initiative

Outreach and coalition building:

  • Organized the Train to Paris and actively contributed to COP22 and COP23 with Members from Morocco and Germany independently organizing Climate Train (Train du climat in Morocco and Train to Bonn)
  • Creation of the Climate Responsibility Pledge
  • Publication of the yearly Railway Handbook, published with the International Energy Agency (IEA)
  • 1st Meeting on Eco scoring hosted on the 12th of November 2018

Capacity building:

  • Held workshops on rail adaption in London, Beijing, and Agadir under the RailAdapt Project
  • Organized workshops on energy efficiency in the rail sector every year
  • Organized workshop on sustainable door to door solution in Warsaw, Poland, 14th of November 2018

Knowledge development:

  • Developed the Environment Strategy Reporting System (ESRS)

Monitoring and reporting:

  • UIC will monitor and report the progress by the rail sector towards achieving these goals using a dedicated Reporting System managed centrally by UIC and externally verified by an independent body. Results will be published on yearly basis on a dedicated internet site (
  • The initiative released the IEA-UIC Handbook 2017 and 2018.

UIC Low Carbon Rail Transport Challenge Action Plan:

Focal point

Carole Escolan Zeno ( and Marie Luz Philippe (