Establishing a low-carbon future has become an increasing point of geopolitical focus. The COP21 conference in Paris in 2015 marked a milestone of international cooperation in which 196 representatives in attendance agreed to mitigate climate change. The center of agreement focused on reducing global warming to less than two degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels and zero net greenhouse gas emissions to be reached during the second half of the 21st century. On 22 April 2016, 174 countries signed this agreement and began to take steps to implement these measures into their own local jurisdictions.

The goal of promoting sustainability is at the core of EUROFIMA’s public mission. Supporting the growth and development of passenger rail transport is key to addressing the problem of CO2 emissions attributable to the transportation sector. As countries across Europe work to meet the sustainability targets outlined by Europe 2020 and by the COP21 agreement, EUROFIMA is determined to serve as a partner to its Contracting States in fulfilling their objectives.

Rail Transport Greenhouse Gas Emissions 

According to the International Energy Agency, the transportation sector accounts for nearly 24% of energy-based CO2 emissions, of which road, maritime and air transport are the leading contributors.[1] Despite efforts to make airplanes more energy efficient, the increasing use of air travel has offset the benefits realized per aircraft. In the automobile sector, the use of hybrid and electric vehicles has continued to increase, but road vehicles still account for nearly three quarters of the total transport CO2 emissions.

Rail passenger transportation offers a viable solution to counteract these high levels of CO2 emissions. The International Union of Railways indicates that greenhouse gas emissions from rail transport are 85% lower than the average emissions from road and air transport. Rail uses three and a half times less land per passenger kilometer than automobiles. The external costs of transport (i.e. the costs of the negative effects from transport not borne by the company but by society) by rail are four times lower than of road passenger transport and six times lower than of road freight services.

According to the Swiss Competence Center for Energy Research Efficient Technologies and Systems for Mobility, the life-cycle CO2 emissions of the rail transportation in Switzerland per passenger kilometer are not only lower than automobile, bus, and airplane transportation, but are even lower than the CO2 emissions of bikes. [2] This is because the average GHG emissions from maintenance and production per passenger kilometer are about three times higher for bikes, compared to trains.

Life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions in Switzerland for different passenger transport modes in kg-equivalent per passenger/km

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Note: The figure is adapted from SCCER Mobility 2021. Pathways to a net zero CO2 Swiss mobility system. Accessible at:

Rail Transport Energy Efficiency

In addition to concerns regarding CO2 emissions, consideration must also be given to the efficiency with which energy is consumed. According to Eurostat, 31% of the energy use is attributed to the transportation sector.[3] Out of these, the rail transport sector accounts for only 1.7% of the energy consumed by the transport sector whereas road transportation accounts for 72.7%.[4] This sharp contrast is due to the significant efforts made within the rail transport sector in Europe to electrify power lines and construct more energy efficient trains, which resulted in 19.7% reduction of the energy use by the rail transportation from 1990 to 2017.[4] A modern electric train consumes 85% less energy than an airplane and 70% less energy than a hybrid car per passenger kilometer.

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EUROFIMA Sustainable Projects

EUROFIMA’s public mission to support the development of passenger rail transport within its Contracting States is well aligned with its commitment to support a low-carbon future. As of year-end 2020, EUROFIMA had CHF 10.9 billion in development-related loans outstanding, which are distributed among 13 Contracting States.

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[1] IEA (International Enegry Agency). 2020. Tracking Transport 2020. Accessible at: Viewed: September 1, 2021.

[2] SCCER Mobility (Swiss Competence Center for Energy Research Efficient Technologies and Systems for Mobility). 2021. Pathways to a net zero CO2 Swiss mobility system. Accessible at: Viewed: September 1, 2021.

[3] Eurostat. 2021. Final energy consumption by sector. Accessible at: Viewed: September 1, 2021.

[4] EEA (European Aviation Agency). 2019. Indicator Assessment: Final energy consumption in Europe by mode of transport. Accessible at: Viewed: September 2, 2021.