The UPU’s bi-annual Conference on Postal Regulation, held on the margins of its Council of Administration sessions this May, highlighted a need for aligned postal and sustainability regulations and standardized data on postal carbon emissions to set appropriate reduction targets.Held under the theme “Climate action by the global postal sector”, the conference came at a critical point with the Council having just endorsed the UPU’s very first draft “Green Package” for the postal sector. The package, which will include voluntary emissions reduction targets for the sector, will be submitted to the organization’s Extraordinary Congress in Saudi Arabia this October for approval.
Opening the conference, UPU Director General Masahiko Metoki highlighted the importance of creating opportunities for dialogue on climate action within the sector.
“By seizing this opportunity to collaborate, innovate and learn from each other, we can pave the way towards a more sustainable future for the postal sector. We can make a lasting and positive impact on our planet, and ensure that the postal sector remains an essential force for change in the face of climate challenges,” he said.
In a keynote address to participants, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Secretary Abdalah Mokssit emphasized the need for immediate and deep emission reductions in all sectors. He appealed to UPU members to reduce emissions through digitally enabled energy efficiency and consumption management and the switch to electric vehicles powered by no- or low-carbon energy sources.
“If we act now, we can ensure a sustainable future for all,” he said, emphasizing the need to have necessary policy, infrastructure and technologies in place to effect the transition.
Aligning policy & practice
The conference’s first panel – moderated by Rajeev Venugopal, representing Canada as co-chair of the Council’s Committee on Postal Policy and Regulation – brought together sectoral experts to discuss aligning postal practices with national and regional climate policy.
Senior Director of Programmes Coordination for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Daniele Violetti applauded the UPU’s work to set voluntary emissions reductions targets and implement greener technologies within the sector. Violetti emphasized the urgent need for broad-scale action, noting that feasible and low-cost options existed in all regions. He added that multilateral frameworks – such as those found within the UPU – would be critical to ensuring global cooperation on climate action.
Cathrine Grimseid, Principal Analyst for regulatory intelligence provider Cullen International, noted that regulators across Europe had some work to do to catch up with designated postal operators’ climate action initiatives and ensure supportive policy alignment. “The operators are far ahead of the regulators and this is related to the business opportunities,” she said.
Providing an operational perspective, Deutsche Post International Postal Relations Director Felix Blaich highlighted the business incentives for carbon reduction strategies within the sector. “Customers demand sustainable solutions from their service providers,” he said, adding that investors and politics also added to that demand.
Regulation should create a level playing field, remove barriers, provide incentives, and avoid interference with business models, he noted, adding that regulation needed to be standardized at an international level. He highlighted the UPU’s role in supporting that work stressing how UPU’s 2021 resolution on climate action had paved the way for a “quantum leap” for the sector through collaboration on carbon reduction targets, strategies and knowledge sharing.
The conference’s second panel – moderated by Nermin Hassan, representing Egypt as co-chair of the Council’s Committee on Postal Policy and Regulation – discussed cooperation between those developing climate policy and those developing postal policy on the regional and international levels.
African Development Bank Climate and Environment Finance Manager Gareth Phillips suggested that the UPU and its members work towards alignment with the Paris Agreement, which provides clear targets for the transition to a climate resilient future.
Discussing climate adaptation, Phillips noted the important role of Posts in reaching communities affected by the climate crisis, as a way to provide essential services and also to collect climate-relevant data. The UPU could provide a central database for this data, he said. He added that the African Development Bank provides grants for feasibility studies, and could potentially mobilize climate finance for projects in the UPU network. It aims to mainstream climate change considerations into 100% of investments, and has a cumulative goal of lending $25 billion for climate adaptation between 2020 and 2025.
The UPU’s role as a focal point for global data was echoed by, Dirk Appelmans, Head of Postal Unit at the Belgian Institute for Postal Services and Telecommunications and Co-Chair of the Sustainability Working Group at the European Regulators Group for Postal Services. He underlined the importance of defining common objectives for sustainability, noting a gap in the collection of verified and comparable data that could measure the true impact of the sector.
From the UN Environment Programme’s Electric Mobility Programme, Alexander Körner added that postal operators were well placed to demonstrate the value of electric vehicles to the public and policy makers, so long as they considered sustainability across the entire value chain. He added that in order for climate regulation to be effective, it would have to work in conjunction with appropriate fiscal and transport policy.
Closing the event, UPU Deputy Director General Marjan Osvald urged member countries to unite in the pursuit of a sustainable postal future, adding that the forthcoming UPU “Green Package” could provide promising avenues for climate mitigation, adaptation and finance.