Toespraak minister Harbers bij opening Inland Transport Committe

Toespraak van minister Harbers (IenW) bij de opening van de Inland Transport Committee in Genève (Zwitserland) op 20 februari 2024. De toespraak is alleen in het Engels beschikbaar.

Your Excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome, everyone. I’m delighted to address the Inland Transport Committee today. The whole ITC community is here in Geneva to work on further strengthening our international connectivity in all modes of inland transport.

The Netherlands is honoured to chair the committee. Particularly at such a critical time. Geopolitical tensions and conflicts are putting pressure on global connectivity, and exposing vulnerabilities in supply chains.

Now, more than ever, we need to invest in cooperation and global connectivity. And the ITC has an important role in this. It has more than proven its worth over the course of its 77 years.

The ITC’s roots are here, in this very building. Initially, its main purpose was to promote reconstruction and prosperity after World War II. International transport by road, rail and over water were needed to distribute crucial supplies. The ITC helped bring food to the hungry, medicine to the sick, and building materials to the homeless.

Safe and seamless international transport enhances economic development, prosperity and wellbeing for billions of people around the world. The focus of the ITC may be on inland transport, but our efforts have a much wider impact.

Through 60 United Nations conventions, we’ve developed a global legal framework for transport, setting out clear agreements on vehicle requirements, recognition of driving licences, harmonisation of traffic rules and much more. With 152 contracting states and more than 1800 contracting parties, our reach is big.  

ITC standards have become global standards. Recently the ITC was officially recognised as the primary global UN forum for inland transport. A major achievement.

And now we have to live up to our reputation. Again, we’ve arrived at a pivotal moment. What we do today will shape the future of transport.
We are here to take steps towards a future-proof inland transport system. One that takes account of climate-related challenges, energy security and road safety.

Transport accounts for 23 per cent of all carbon emissions. And inland transport accounts for 70 per cent of that. But at the same time, passenger demand is projected to increase by 79 per cent by 2050. At COP28, the international community agreed to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. This will be a challenge for sure, but it also brings opportunities for innovation and prosperity.

The inland transport sector must take responsibility by setting out ambitions and clear intermediate goals. As a member of the ITC, and its chair, the Netherlands attaches great importance to the ITC strategy on reducing greenhouse gas emissions in inland transport.

The ITC can play an important role thanks to its overarching structure that links diverse modes of transport: road, rail and inland shipping. Instead of focusing on decarbonisation in a single mode, for example, it’s looking at things like encouraging multimodal transport solutions, and shifting from road transport to rail and inland shipping.

Let’s seize this opportunity, and embrace the climate strategy.
Improving international rail transport is key as we address climate change and work to lower the carbon emissions of transport. The ITC’s ongoing work to improve international goods transport recently led to the adoption of the first convention of a unified railway law.

Its aim is for rail operators and their customers to be able to move goods under a single contract quickly and cost-effectively on routes between Europe and Asia. And thus enable a rapid increase in the share of goods shipped by rail on Euro-Asian routes.

It’s also vital that the transition to clean transport is a just transition. So I’m pleased that the ITC has taken the lead in developing quality standards for importing and exporting used vehicles. Ensuring that cars exported to the Global South are roadworthy and meet environmental standards. I appreciate our joint commitment to improving quality in the used vehicle market.

A sustainable transport system can only be future-proof if there is a reliable supply of energy. This is becoming a problem for many countries.

I therefore welcome the cooperation that is taking shape between the transport and energy divisions. We need a more integrated approach.
At the moment the Netherlands is seeing promising developments in vehicle-to-grid technology, in which electric vehicles don’t only use energy but can also store it – and provide it to the grid when necessary. In other words, car batteries and charging stations can play an important role in a sustainable energy system.

Innovations like this can help us take the pressure off our energy systems. The ITC offers the right context for scaling up promising new technologies, and can contribute by developing standards that support innovation.

Finally, we need to keep a sharp eye on road safety. This has always been, and will remain, one of our core tasks. And it’s particularly important now, given the emergence of connected and automated driving. With this in mind, the Netherlands strongly supports the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030.

Ladies and gentlemen, even after 77 years of good work, we still have plenty to do. Through the Inland Transport Committee, we can make the world safer, more sustainable and more connected. So let’s roll up our sleeves. I look forward to continuing working with you all.

Thank you.