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COP26 delivered much progress but we must continue the momentum if we want to keep "1.5 alive"

I was privileged to join the activity around COP26 in Glasgow where Hitachi Ltd. took a Principal Partner role.

Whilst COP26 achieved more than any previous conference in relative terms, in absolute terms it still fell short of limiting global carbon emissions to 1.5 degrees C.

But I find hope from the event all the same. With an agreement to return to the table annually, instead of every five years, there is the opportunity for us to continue to find new ways to bring the emissions down. New policies, new technologies, new opportunity for progress.

The annual rhythm could also help drive greater transparency in reporting progress, and highlight areas of weakness.

The main lesson for me is that we have to continue the momentum.

And those parties - governments, businesses or individuals - who want to continue to drive transformation around a low carbon economy must continue to step up, commit, and most importantly collaborate to make it happen.

I was lucky enough to deliver a keynote speech on these themes at an event delivered in partnership with the UK Department for Transport and our customers the ScotRail Alliance, as well as stakeholders from across the UK Energy and Mobility sectors.

To make it easier to read, the team have added headings and links to additional information.

Transforming Mobility - Speech Transcript

Good evening. I'd like to thank all of you for joining us tonight after what has been a very busy few days. 

In particular, of course, I would like to thank the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport, Trudy Harrison MP, for joining us today.

I would also like to thank Alex Hynes, our valued partner from the ScotRail Alliance, who you'll be hearing from shortly. 

To start, I’d like to quote a speech some of you may have heard earlier in this conference, from Sir David Attenborough. 

"“If, working apart,
we are a force powerful enough to destabilize our planet,
surely working together,
we are powerful enough to save it”"

It’s important that we are together at this moment, because it is together that this industry will make its biggest contribution to the challenges we face. 

As CEO of the Hitachi Rail, you might expect me to focus this speech on trains. And of course I will!

But true to Sir David’s quote, I want to touch on the theme of working together. Of thinking bigger.

At Hitachi we’re lucky to be in a position where we have not only a clear rail perspective but also a major presence in automotive, in energy, and in digital. 

We believe that this 360 degree vision means we’re well positioned to help power the journey ahead. If we’re going to succeed, we need a whole-systems approach.

It starts with the decarbonisation of our energy system. I’d like to acknowledge the incredible work done by the energy sector in transforming the grid over recent years to keep the lights on – whilst integrating unprecedented amounts of renewable energy. 

This decarbonisation of electricity drives the transformation of mobility. 

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Of course, rail is right at the heart of this. It’s well established that taking the train is the most environmentally friendly way of getting from A to B – swift, efficient, and with a low carbon impact per passenger. 

But with millions of electric vehicles set to take to our roads over the next few years, cars are increasingly closing the sustainability gap and the pace of innovation in the automotive sector is rapid. 

As transport solutions become more sustainable, we need to carefully consider how these innovations can connect to make journeys more convenient and more sustainable.

As both a rail business and an automotive supplier, we can see the synergy and the potential of the innovations being made in both fields. 

A great example of this is how we have used our experience of managing extensive fleets of trains, to now help operators of cars and buses on their electrification journey.

Hitachi’s pioneering project "Electric Juice" in partnership with Octopus Energy and First Bus is a great example of where we are innovating with our customers in this space. 

Mobility as a Service can drive the Modal Shift

I’d like to talk you through some of the work Hitachi Rail is focussing on to support the decarbonisation of our industry – starting with Modal Shift.

The fastest way to decarbonise transportation is by enabling the shift to lower emission modes of transport.

Choosing rail over aviation and fossil-fuel powered cars is like the difference between burning coal or harnessing the wind for power generation. 

If we want to decarbonise quickly, then driving the modal shift is the obvious choice.

But that means that Rail needs to compete to a degree with petrol or diesel cars and planes - and we all have a big role to play in helping that happen, putting passengers right at the heart of multi-modal journeys that use rail as their backbone. But connect to other modes as seamlessly as possible.

I have a timely example for you. Some of you might have travelled to Scotland on the new Lumo service. Lumo is a fascinating project in the way that is positioned itself directly against aviation – not just on cost, but on carbon. 

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I think what Lumo is doing is inspiring. If we look further afield to Hitachi’s international markets, we know it works. 

We can see that in Japan and in Italy, where Hitachi has a very strong presence, rail has now been established as a genuine competitor and has disrupted local aviation markets thanks to its attractiveness to passengers.

That’s had a real and long-term impact on carbon emissions and still provides great outcomes for passengers.

Accelerate Electrification with Batteries

But what is the rail industry doing to decarbonise itself? This is the second part of Hitachi Rail’s ambitions to reduce carbon emissions – and it can help reduce cost and disruption to the wider network.

Rail electrification is key for decarbonisation. But we know that both time and cost make it impractical for some services. It is expensive and disruptive to electrify infrastructure.

Batteries are an enabler, reducing the cost of electrification, and helping to deliver programmes more quickly.

Battery technology is understood and it is deployable. Is retrofittable. And it's possible right now.

In Japan, the DENCHA train just celebrated its 5 year anniversary. The DENCHA is the world’s first battery fleet, saving over 2.7 million tonnes of carbon over the last five years, travelling up to 60km on battery power alone.

In Italy, we are delivering our next generation regional trains, which can achieve speeds of up to 160 kph – its top speed - on battery power. 

Batteries are proven and they’re coming here.

I’m excited to say that this morning we announced agreements with First Group to trial batteries on both TransPennine Express and Great Western Rail trains

These battery electric trains will instantly cut carbon emissions by at least 20% - with more to follow. 

We aren’t doing this alone of course. 

I’d like to thank our battery technology partners in the North East, Hyperdrive and Turntide – who are here with us tonight. Working together, we are investing in high-tech green jobs and manufacturing at their Sunderland plant. 

And of course none of this would be possible without the pioneering leadership of Eversholt and Angel Trains for their commitment to invest in these technologies. 

Another example of multiple industries and government working together.

Finally, we of course need to decarbonise ourselves – and the products and services in our value chain of suppliers and customers. 

Hitachi group has set us challenging goals to achieve Net Zero in our own business by 2030, and across our entire value chain by 2050.

Last week I was very pleased to announce that in 2020, we were able to cut our own businesses’ emissions by 30%, building on our 14% reduction in the previous year. 

There is always more to do, but I want you to know that we are taking this seriously and are investing more to improve our own footprint and that of our supply chain.

The challenge of reducing our scope 3 emissions – those of our suppliers and customers – is even more daunting, for all of us. 

But if we get this right, between government, operators and supply chain, we can make a huge contribution to the climate challenge. 

We need to think bigger and it will be a challenge to make it work. 

But as Sir David Attenborough said, surely we can make it work together.

About the author

Andy Barr

Andrew Barr

Group CEO