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[From the Scene] Global transport leaders call for greener moves

International Transport Forum 2024 discusses ways to encourage more environmentally friendly, resilient transport sector worldwide

May 23, 2024 - 15:20 By Kan Hyeong-woo
Kim Young-tae (center), secretary general of the International Transport Forum, speaks in a press conference at the ITF's annual summit in Leipzig on Wednesday. (International Transport Forum)

LEIPZIG, Germany -- Global transport leaders have called for the importance of bolstering environmentally friendly transportation during these times of climate, health and geopolitical crisis at this year’s International Transport Forum’s annual summit in Leipzig, Germany.

“The world is facing what can be described as a polycrisis, in other words, a situation with multiple simultaneous disruptions that interact and can quickly spill over from one area to another,” said ITF Secretary General Kim Young-tae in the opening plenary session at the Congress Center Leipzig on Wednesday.

“Car climate negotiations is a good starting point but greening transport in a polycrisis requires more than simply reducing emissions. The message has never been clearer. We must act now and keep our focus on the existential threat of global warming," he said.

Stressing that the transport sector has a grand responsibility to move toward zero emissions, the ITF secretary general emphasized that global transport leaders need to adapt to extreme weather events that will hit transport systems.

“Policies must increase the capacity to resist, adapt and recover when disruptions take place… Equity must be at the heart of our policies towards a mobility system that leaves no citizens behind,” said Kim.

“We must maintain a long-term policy focus, leveraging opportunities such as cleaner and automated vehicles and digital innovation to promote a greener and more resilient transport sector," he said.

According to the organizers, the three-day event drew over 1,200 people including ministerial-level delegations from over 40 countries along with representatives from international organizations, non-governmental organizations and businesses. The ITF currently has 66 member countries.

As the only intergovernmental body that covers all transport modes in the world, the ITF is administratively integrated with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development yet stands politically autonomous.

“Sustainable mobility is a common effort,” said Volker Wissing, German federal minister for digital and transport.

“The political sector, the economy, the industry and academia all have to join forces. Now's the time to make courageous decisions," Wissing said.

Those in the delegation from South Korea included Baek Won-kug, vice minister for transport at the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, and Shin Seung-kyu, senior vice president and head of the policy coordination office at Hyundai Motor Group.

Baek presented Korea’s current plan to reduce carbon emissions by 37.8 percent by 2030 compared to the 2018 output, during a ministers’ roundtable on transport and climate change, noting the country’s transition to electric vehicles and hydrogen vehicles as well as its efforts to further bolster public transportation.

“Everyone was surprised that (the share of public transportation among all transportation methods in Korea) is 33 percent and we are trying to up the figure to 50 percent,” said Baek.

Shin of Hyundai Motor Group, who also participated in the same session, said there was a lot of interest in hydrogen cargo vehicles and hydrogen buses as decarbonizing solutions, adding that countries showed willingness to cooperate in taking action in such leading businesses. Hyundai Motor was the only private corporation invited to the ministers’ roundtable.

“We rolled out about 300 hydrogen buses last year and expect to produce some 2,000 units this year,” said Shin.

“In terms of such a rapid change, I think we were invited with expectations that Hyundai Motor could present an exemplary case for other countries.”

The ITF’s first annual summit took place in 2008 in Leipzig. The ITF was created in 2006 by transport ministers from 43 countries. The roots of the ITF go back to 1953 when 16 European nations established the European Conference of Ministers of Transport. South Korea joined the ECMT in 2000.