UNCTAD: Ports Need to Be Climate Change Proofed Urgently

Port of HamburgIllustration; Image Courtesy: Pixabay under CC0 Creative Commons license

Ports and coastal infrastructure need to be prepared urgently for the projected impacts of the climate change, according to UNCTAD.

“The hardest hit areas, coastlines, will affect us all since the lion’s share of trade itself is managed through international shipping and ports,” said UNCTAD’s chief of policy and legislation, Regina Asariotis, at a meeting held on the sidelines of the COP24 global climate summit in Katowice, Poland in December.

UNCTAD stressed that all actors in the ocean economy must face this fact as it has baring on the trade and sustainable development prospects of all countries, but particularly developing and vulnerable small island nations.

The warnings come in the wake of stark news that CO2 emissions keep rising. According to the International Energy Agency, carbon emissions from advanced economies are set to rise in 2018 for first time in five years, which is “particularly worrisome for global efforts to meet the Paris Agreement.”

Our data shows that despite the strong growth in solar PV and wind, emissions have started to rise again in advanced economies, highlighting the need for deploying all technologies and energy efficiency,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director.

“This turnaround should be another warning to governments as they meet in Katowice this week. Increasing efforts are needed to encourage even more renewables, greater energy efficiency, more nuclear, and more innovation for technologies such as carbon capture, utilisation and storage and hydrogen, for instance.”

IEA pointed out that one of the key technology solutions that could reverse the trend is carbon capture, utilization and storage or CCUS.

“It is one of a few options that can significantly reduce emissions from coal and gas power generation and deliver deep emissions reductions needed across key industrial processes such as steel, cement and chemicals manufacturing,” the agency pointed out.

Even though the shipping industry hasn’t been included in the Paris Agreement, the IMO has committed to halving industry’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. However, concrete steps aimed at making that a reality are yet to be defined.

UNCTAD believes the industry must act quickly, as impacts of the climate change are expected to kick in as early as 2030 when the 1.5 degrees Celsius global warming point is likely to be reached, according to the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

As explained, the anticipated changes in sea-level, temperature, humidity, precipitation and extreme storms, floods and other climatic factors are likely to affect seaports as well as all connecting transport infrastructure and the global network of supply-chains.

“The impacts may be severe, and given what is at stake, we have no time to lose,” said Asariotis.

“Currently there is a disconnect between the evidence from the scientific community and the pace of policy change made by governments.

“Our research aims to help bridge this gap by providing evidence-based information to help policymakers understand the most at risk areas and what kind of policy interventions are needed, now, to manage the risk, adapt and reduce the potential economic impacts.”

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