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Former UN environment chief urges accelerated development of green technologies

Automotive industry leaders from around the world came together at a special FISITA event in Frankfurt during the 62nd IAA (motor show), to hear one of the leading experts on global environmental policy present his vision for “Mobility in a Decarbonised World”.

Prof Dr Klaus Töpfer, former Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and a former Under Secretary General of the UN, delivered his message to the FISITA Honorary Committee, which comprises senior executives from 57 of the world’s leading vehicle manufacturers, technology suppliers and energy companies.

In a speech that was described as both ‘sobering and optimistic’, Töpfer praised the automotive industry for the progress it had made so far in reducing carbon emissions but said developments such as hybrid engines and bio-fuels are just initial steps in the right direction.

Urging his audience to press on with the development of alternative-fuel technologies, Töpfer said that stricter legislation on emissions should not be regarded as the only driver for change and innovation. Equally important, he said, is the general public’s growing awareness of environmental issues and a resulting increase in consumer demand for cleaner, more efficient vehicles. It is therefore in the industry’s own best interests to invest heavily in ‘green’ research and development. With a continuing growth in demand for personal mobility worldwide, such investments, said Töpfer, will produce very high returns.

Looking to the future, Töpfer believed that a “decarbonised world” would not result in an immobile society. On the contrary, by harnessing the talent and ingenuity of the global engineering community, it will be possible to ensure high levels of mobility as well as a cleaner environment for future generations.

Töpfer accepted that while engineers had to accelerate the development and adoption of green technologies in vehicles, politicians could do more to tackle energy and mobility concerns. Noting that the world had entered an “urban millennium” in which more than 50% of the world’s population are living in cities, Töpfer argued that policy makers had to become much more innovative in their approach to urban planning and public transport provision in order to bring about a decrease in “forced mobility”.

He concluded by saying that FISITA, which represents 147,000 automotive engineers in 38 countries, has an important role to play by facilitating the exchange of leading-edge technical knowledge between companies and nations.

Founded in Paris in 1948, FISITA (Fédération Internationale des Sociétés d’Ingeniéurs des Techniques de l’Automobile / International Federation of Automotive Engineering Societies) is the world body representing 147,000 automotive engineers. It brings together the national automotive engineering societies of 38 countries to disseminate and share leading-edge technical knowledge in order to improve automotive transportation for the benefit of all. FISITA is a non-profit educational and scientific organisation dedicated to promoting advances in automotive technology that save lives, protect the environment and conserve natural resources.