UNCTAD stresses urgent need for climate adaptation in transport

The transportation sector faces severe risks from climate change-sea level rise, soaring temperatures, extreme storms and floods-and needs the adoption of initiatives to ensure the resiliency of its facilities and infrastructure, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

The unrelenting assault of climate change will continue to have devastating effects, requiring countries to develop strategies for resilient transport infrastructure and systems, said UNCTAD in a release on April 25.

“The benefits of acting now far outweigh the costs of inaction,” said the statement.

The risks are particularly grave for coastal transport infrastructure. “Coastal risk is becoming one of the most threatening natural hazards, especially in low-income countries,” UNCTAD said.

Developing states like the Philippines that rely heavily on coastal transport infrastructure, in particular seaports and airports, are particularly susceptible to climate change impacts such as sea-level rise and extreme weather events, the report continued.

These impacts threaten trade and disaster relief efforts, as well as international tourism, which require secure and reliable international transport connections.

“Transport is critical to ‘sun, sea and sand’ tourism,” said the report. “The potential for losses caused by climate change is huge.”

And for the aviation sector, climate change will create significant challenges related to finance, insurance and regulations, said the statement.

Yet developing countries have limited capacity to adapt and build the resilience of their transport infrastructure to cope with climate change.

“Strategies for reducing vulnerabilities, enhancing resilience, and improving economic efficiency are necessary for sustaining economic and social gains,” said UNCTAD.

Experts emphasize the need for an integrated approach when working on climate adaptation and resilience building for transportation across global supply chains.

“Transport underpins trade and society. It should be considered as a system,” they said. “Adaptation actions should become part of normal business in the transportation sector rather than special projects or process. In order to facilitate climate change adaptation, we need to work as supply chains rather than transport modes.”

“Solutions can only be found by all stakeholders working together,” said UNCTAD, underscoring the need to be more proactive in incorporating adaptation into the management and expansion of transport infrastructure.

This can be achieved through exchanging knowledge and experiences on building the resilience of transport infrastructure or systems and setting up common methods for measuring success.

The establishment of databases on all transport assets, land use, the regional economy, weather and climate change should be a priority in every country.

“There is a need for adaptive policy-making, high-quality asset data, capacity-building, and incentives for the private sector to invest in adaptation,” said UNCTAD.

Other important actions suggested include the creation of an open-access global transport infrastructure database of adaptation-oriented policies, measures and projects; capacity-building programs for transport infrastructure practitioners to enable long-term resilience planning; and long-term investment in human resources and skills through academic education and training.

“Despite the potential high initial costs of adaptation measures, their benefits often outweigh the costs, as several studies have found,” said UNCTAD.

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