Cop28 is time for 'real implementation', says global transport chief

Mohamed Mezghani tells The National that Dubai's clean transport drive could be model for other cities

Public transport operators are urging countries and cities to give them a big role in tackling climate change. AP
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The Cop28 summit should be the moment when the world moves to “real implementation” of its pledges to cut emissions, a captain of the transport industry has said.

Mohamed Mezghani, the secretary general of the International Association of Public Transport, said the summit in Dubai was the “last chance” to decarbonise in line with the 1.5°C global warming target.

He told The National that Dubai’s expansion of low-emission public transport could be a model for other cities.

Mass transit providers are touting their industry’s role in tackling climate change at a summit in Barcelona this week where they have highlighted the emissions saved by avoiding or sharing cars.

Operators such as Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority are also pledging to reduce emissions from buses and taxis by switching to electric, hybrid or hydrogen-powered vehicles.

Mr Mezghani said he was in discussions about the sector’s place on the Cop28 agenda after no day of talks was dedicated to countries’ transport policies at Cop27 in Egypt.

“Cop28 will be important to approach transport from a policy perspective and not from a technology perspective. It means really emphasising the role of public transport and sustainable mobility in contributing to reduced CO2 emissions,” he said.

“It’s not about taking commitments any more. It’s about implementing them. What I expect from Cop28 is that we show real implementation.”

Mohamed Mezghani spoke to The National at a global public transport summit in Barcelona. Photo: The National

Transport accounts for about a quarter of global emissions, although most of these come from personal cars and goods vehicles. Much of the car industry is banking on a switch to electric to keep selling private motors.

Many major economies have pledged to cut net emissions to zero by 2050 to curb the worst effects of global warming.

A declaration by dozens of transport bosses on Tuesday also highlighted the industry’s role in improving urban life and air quality and reducing noise pollution.

“Cop28 will be very important because it’s also the last chance if we want to decarbonise. We need to progress faster,” said Mr Mezghani, who with other officials took a train from Brussels to Barcelona for this week’s summit.

Mr Mezghani previously took a train from Paris to Glasgow for the Cop26 summit in the UK in 2021.

Dubai’s Expo City will host the latest round of UN climate talks beginning on November 30. The emirate will also host the next-but-one global transport summit in 2026, it was announced on Sunday.

Officials from Dubai’s RTA have spoken in Barcelona of their plans to have flying taxis by 2026, regular taxis no longer running on petrol from 2027 and an all-electric bus fleet by 2050.

Public transport’s share of journeys in Dubai has more than trebled since 2006.

Dubai's expansion of public transport was hailed as a model for other cities. Photo: RTA

The global transport body has a regional office in Dubai, which is showing the way by bringing in new technology such as the world’s longest driverless metro and striving to decarbonise buses and taxis, Mr Mezghani said.

He said the world could also take inspiration from other projects in the Middle East and North Africa, such as the planned Riyadh metro and developments in Qatar linked to football’s World Cup.

“Dubai could be a model for a number of cities in terms of acceleration of the development of public transport,” said Mr Mezghani, who is from Tunisia and has been secretary general since 2018.

“The Mena region is progressing well. What we can learn is the speed of execution, especially in the Gulf, between the time the decision is taken and the time it is implemented – much shorter than in Europe for example.

“They realise, I think, in the Mena region that public transport could serve cities, could serve tourism, could serve the development of the economy. Although their cities in most cases were designed for cars, they realise that public transport could boost the city.”

Updated: June 06, 2023, 8:00 PM