UNCTAD has been working, ‘ahead of the curve’, on the implications of climate change for maritime transportation, since 2008, with particular emphasis on impacts and adaptation needs of seaports and other coastal transport infrastructure.
Relevant work contributes directly to implementation of a number of Sustainable Development Goals and targets, as well as to implementation of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda for Financing for Development, the SAMOA Pathway, and the Paris Agreement; and benefits from strong support of Member States.
UNCTAD’s work has been cited in the 5th Assessment Report of the IPCC WG II Report (2014), as well as in the Climate Change Policy Framework for Jamaica (2015) and the National Adaptation Plan to Climate Change for Brazil (Vol.2) (2016).
Academic publications include an UNCTAD edited book on “Maritime Transport and the Climate Change challenge“, co-published by the UN and Earthscan (Asariotis and Benamara, 2012) and providing detailed insight on a range of the potential implications of climate change for this key sector of global trade; as well as a multidisciplinary academic paper (Becker et. al.,”A Note on Climate change adaptation for seaports: A challenge for global ports, a challenge for global society”. Climatic Change (2013), co-authored by experts following an UNCTAD Expert Meeting.
Other relevant initiatives by the UNCTAD secretariat include a number of intergovernmental expert meetings which have focused on the implications of climate change for maritime transport, highlighting in particular the need to adapt to the impacts of climate change.
They include an Ad-Hoc Expert Meeting on “Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation: A Challenge for Global Ports“, held in September 2011 and a Joint UNECE-UNCTAD Workshop on “Climate Change Impacts on International Transport Networks“, held in September 2010 – leading to the establishment of a UNECE Expert Group on the subject – and a Multi-year Expert Meeting on Transport and Trade Facilitation with a focus on “Maritime Transport and the Climate Change Challenge“, held in February 2009.
The implications of climate change for coastal transport systems were also considered at two Expert Meetings with a focus on the transport-related challenges facing Small Island Developing States (SIDS), namely the third session of the Multi-year Expert Meeting on Transport, Trade Logistics and Trade Facilitation, “Small Island Developing States: Transport and Trade Logistics Challenges“, held on 24-26 November 2014, and the Ad Hoc Expert Meeting on “Addressing the Transport and Trade Logistics Challenges of the Small Island Developing States (SIDS): Samoa Conference and Beyond“, held on 11 July 2014.
Throughout the implementation of the project, central project findings and substantive issues arising have been presented at a number of international conferences and meetings. Some illustrative examples are mentioned below.
UNCTAD contributes actively to relevant inter-agency work under the auspices of UN-OCEANS, and the Technical Working Group to support the UN Secretary-General’s High Level Advisory Group on Sustainable Transport, among others. To this end, UNCTAD has contributed to several technical documents prepared by the TWG, as well as to the final report of the Secretary-General’s High-Level Advisory Group on Sustainable Transport, Mobilizing Sustainable Transport for Development. The present DA project was selected as a case-study for inclusion in the report.
As part of its contribution to the first UN Global Sustainable Transport Conference, held in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan on 26-27 November 2016, UNCTAD co-led and participated in a high-level thematic panel on “Sustainable Transport Solutions to the Climate Crisis”, highlighting key challenges in respect of climate change adaptation and resilience building for transport infrastructure. The importance of effective climate change adaptation and DRR for critical coastal transport infrastructure, in particular in SIDS, as well as the related urgent need for capacity-building and financing is also reflected in the relevant outcome document, the ‘Ashgabat Statement on Commitments and Policy Recommendations’.
In October 2017, UNCTAD participated in the ICAO-UN Workshop on Aviation Partnerships for Sustainable Development held as part of the 2017 Global Sustainable Aviation Summit, highlighting the case for action in respect of climate change impacts and adaptation for coastal transport infrastructure in SIDS.
As part of its collaboration with intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, UNCTAD participates in a Working Group on climate change adaptation for maritime and inland port and navigation infrastructure, which was established in 2015 by PIANC, the key NGO representing global waterborne transport infrastructure, to prepare some industry guidelines for adaptation planning. UNCTAD has also participated in the development of the Regional Framework for Adaptation to Climate Change in coastal and marine areas in the Mediterranean, which was endorsed by the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention for the Protection Of The Mediterranean Sea Against Pollutionin 2016.
UNCTAD continues to collaborate closely with the UNECE Expert Group on Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation for International Transport Networks and Nodes, which had been established in 2011, following a joint UNCTAD-UNECE workshop on the issue, and whose mandate was extended in 2015.
UNCTAD has also been participating actively with regards to the UNFCCC process and most recently, at COP23, participated in the Climate Action Studio, as well as in a panel discussion hosted by Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE) on “How to build green and inclusive economies to implement the Paris Agreement?”
Complementing its technical assistance work, UNCTAD published the findings of a ‘Port industry survey on climate variability and change’, designed in collaboration with global port industry associations and other experts. The survey aimed to improve the understanding of weather and climate-related impacts on ports and to identify data availability and information needs, as well as determine current levels of resilience and preparedness among ports.
Relevant information is urgently required for the purposes of risk-assessment and adaptation planning, including in particular for ports in developing regions. Results of the port industry survey provide important contextual information, particularly as the respondent port sample (collectively handling 16% of global seaborne trade) can be considered as representative. Although the majority of respondents had been impacted by weather/climate related events, including by extremes, the study revealed important gaps in terms of relevant information available to seaports of all sizes and across regions, with implications for effective climate risk assessment and adaptation planning.
Climate-related extreme events could have significant implications for seaport infrastructure, operations and services, with important repercussions for global sustainable development prospects and particularly for SIDS and other vulnerable groups of countries. Several extreme weather events of summer 2018 have prompted an UNCTAD article on how 2018 demonstrates extreme weather’s impact on development, including trade related implications of weather extremes, highlighting some relevant recent research.
The World Bank estimates that, globally, disasters caused by natural hazards cost an annual $520 billion in consumption loss – human and economic losses. The important need to reduce economic losses from disasters was the focus of an interactive discussion organized by UNCTAD, UNISDR and ITC on the occasion of the International Day for Disaster Reduction 2018. The event, which took place in Geneva and was live-streamed, spotlighted ongoing efforts to integrate disaster and climate risks into development, trade and financial systems. Presentations, including from the OECS Commission, as well as further information and documentation is available on the UNCTAD meetings website.
As part of its active participation at the UNFCCC process, UNCTAD co-organized and contributed to side events on sustainable transport, international shipping, climate resilience and sustainability, and ocean-related issues, at the twenty-fourth session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 24), in Katowice, Poland. These included a joint side event with a focus on climate change mitigation and adaptation for maritime transport, in collaboration with IMO; contribution to the COP 24 Transport Day; as well as to side events on optimizing the integration of ocean-related issues in NDCs and National Adaptation Plans for the achievement of SDG 14, in collaboration with UN-OCEANS; on mitigation and resilience action plans for ports, in collaboration with Global Climate Action; and on climate change and protecting the rights of the most vulnerable, in collaboration with OHCHR.
Read the ‘New York Times’article reporting on the UNCTAD Ad-Hoc Expert Meeting on “Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation: A Challenge for Global Ports” (September 2011)
Read the article of ‘Le Monde’ reporting on the UNCTAD Multi-year Expert Meeting focusing on “Maritime Transport and the Climate Change Challenge” (February 2009)
Read the article by the Secretary-General of UNCTAD on UNCTAD and the climate change challenge (International Institute on Sustainable Development, May 2009)
Watch the video of UNCTAD Deputy Secretary-General, Ms Isabelle Durant highlighting the importance of climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction for transport infrastructure, in particular in SIDS in an interview for the UNFCCC Climate Action Studio at COP 23.
Key Documents to Download
Multi-Year Expert Meeting on Transport and Trade Facilitation: Maritime Transport and the Climate Change Challenge, 16–18 February 2009
Joint UNECE-UNCTAD Workshop: Climate Change Impacts on International Transport Networks, 08 September 2010
Climate Change Impacts on International Transport Networks: Note by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development secretariats (ECE/TRANS/WP.5/2010/3)
Ad Hoc Expert Meeting on Climate change impacts and adaptation: a challenge for global ports, 29 – 30 September 2011
Ad Hoc Expert Meeting on “Addressing the Transport and Trade Logistics Challenges of the Small Island Developing States (SIDS): Samoa Conference and Beyond”, 11 July 2014
Multi-year Expert Meeting on Transport, Trade Logistics and Trade Facilitation, third session (small island developing States), 24 – 26 November 2014
Port Industry Survey on Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation (UNCTAD/SER.RP/2017/18)