International maritime transport, like other economic sectors, faces a dual challenge in respect of climate change: the need to reduce its carbon emissions and, at the same time, adapt to the potentially wide-ranging impacts of climatic changes. Given the vital importance of international maritime transport for global trade, meeting the climate change challenge is imperative. With 80% of the volume of world trade carried by sea, international shipping and ports provide crucial linkages in global supply-chains and are essential for the ability of all countries, including those that are landlocked, to access global markets.
UNCTAD considers climate change as part of its ongoing work in the field of trade logistics and carries out substantive work to help improve the understanding of issues at the interface of maritime transport and the climate change challenge. Special emphasis is placed on climate change adaptation and the need to enhance the climate-resilience of transport systems.
In 2012, an UNCTAD edited volume on Maritime Transport and the Climate Change Challenge was co-published by the United Nations and Earthscan (Routledge/Taylor&Francis), one of the major publishers in the field of environment and sustainability. Prefaced by the Secretary-General of UNCTAD and including contributions from 25 experts from academia, international organizations such as the IMO, the UNFCCC secretariat, OECD, IEA and the World Bank, as well as the shipping and port industries, the book is the first of its kind, adopting a multidisciplinary approach and providing detailed insight on a range of the potential implications of climate change for this key sector of global trade.
Other relevant initiatives by the UNCTAD secretariat include a number of intergovernmental 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, a Joint UNECE-UNCTAD Workshop on "Climate Change Impacts on International Transport Networks", held in September 2010, 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. Full documentation relating to these meetings is available on the relevant meetings webpages. For presentations and papers submitted by experts, please see the programme of speakers.
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.
As part of its activities, UNCTAD also collaborates with other international organizations, including for instance with the UNECE and its "Expert Group on Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation for International Transport Networks", which had been established following the 2010 joint UNECE-UNCTAD workshop and published its findings in 2014.