All aboard: Austrian minister takes train to climate talks

GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) — Unlike some of her European colleagues, Leonore Gewessler arrived at the U.N. climate conference with a clean conscience.

The 27-hour journey by sleeper train from Vienna to Brussels, and then on to Glasgow, Scotland, spared Austria’s climate minister the kind of criticism many VIPs faced for taking planes to a conference that’s all about cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

“Wherever possible I try to choose the climate friendly option,” said Gewessler, whose portfolio also include transport.

Since taking office last year, the Green Party politician has pushed to revive Europe’s once-extensive night train network, which has been cut steeply due to competition from low-budget airlines.

Gewessler said Monday she used her stopover in Brussels to meet other European officials and spent the rest of the 2,000-kilometer (1,240-mile) journey preparing for the climate talks that are reaching their final phase this week.

“Trains and night trains are the future of short- and medium-distance travel in Europe,” she said.

Gewessler also recently launched a nationwide ‘climate ticket’ that allows Austrians to travel the length and breadth of the Alpine nation on any form of public transport for 1,095 euros ($1,269) a year — or 3 euros ($3.50) a day.

Almost 130,000 people have bought a climate ticket in the last few weeks, beating the government’s best expectations.

Gewessler said deciding how they want to travel is every person’s personal choice.

“But I became a politician in order to make it much easier for people in our society to move about in a climate friendly way too,” she said.

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