Updated: Feb 20
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 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.
Dr Klaus Töpfer
Dr Klaus Töpfer is known internationally for his expertise in policy surrounding environmental protection and sustainable development. He served as Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety under Chancellor Helmut Kohl. He also served as Federal Minister for Regional Planning, Civil Engineering and Urban Development, and he was a member of the Bundestag from 1992 – 1998. He has held several other posts in the German Government including Federal Minister of Regional Planning, Building and Urban Development; and Federal Minister of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety. In 1998 he was appointed Under Secretary General of the United Nations, and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), a post he held until June 2006.