unctad.org | Multiyear Expert Meeting on Transport and Trade Facilitation — Maritime Transport and the Climate Change Challenge
Statement by Mrs. Lakshmi Puri, Action Deputy Secretary-General of UNCTAD
Multiyear Expert Meeting on Transport and Trade Facilitation — Maritime Transport and the Climate Change Challenge
15 Feb 2009


Mr. Chairman,
Distinguished Delegates,

It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you to the first session of UNCTAD´s Multiyear Expert Meeting on Transport and Trade Facilitation.

As you know, the Terms of Reference of this MYEM are very broad, allowing you to deliberate on a wide range of issues of importance to the transport and trade facilitation sectors. In this context, I am delighted that this first session in the series of meetings will focus on the interface between maritime transport and one of the key global challenges of our time, the issue of the climate change.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is difficult to overstate the threat posed by climate change. In recent years, scientists have warned that, unless action is taken urgently, climate change will significantly affect all humankind, with the poorest populations being hit the hardest. The current global economic crisis shows how a relatively small reduction of output, such as one or two per cent of GDP, may already have considerable implications for trade, unemployment, and the overall well-being of societies. Against this background, it is difficult to contemplate the potential cost of inaction in relation to climate change.

Indeed, the Stern Review estimates that "if we do not act, the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5% of global GDP each year, now and forever. If a wider range of risks and impacts is taken into account, the estimates of damage could rise to 20% of GDP or more" (Stern Review 2006).

Already, clear signs of urgency are apparent today. Many developing countries, particularly African and Small Island developing countries, suffer from increasing temperatures, severe droughts, encroaching seas, devastating floods, changing weather patters and cyclones with increasingly destructive power. These factors can compromise global security, induce migration and destroy agricultural and industrial capacities.

Available scientific evidence suggests that, in order to prevent dangerous climate change, greenhouse gas emissions need to peak over next 10 to 15 years and dramatically drop by at least 50% against 2000 levels by the middle of the century. Needless to say, achieving this will have significant economic implications, including for the maritime transport sector.

As you all know, more than 80% of the total volume of world trade is carried by maritime transport. It is therefore the backbone of a globalizing economy and an engine of growth and development. Yet, it is very dependent on oil, and in particular heavy grade oil. So far, few energy substitutes have become available for this sector. In this context, the IMO has forecast emissions from international shipping to increase by a factor of 2.4 or 3 between 2007 and 2050 (IMO 2008).

The strategic economic role of maritime transportation, its fossil fuel dependency, and the imperative to cut GHG emissions create a formidable challenge for policy makers around the world. Indeed, given its strategic role, greening the transport sector is a key step towards reconciling the goals of economic integration and development and environmental sustainability. However, to date, GHG emissions from maritime transport are not covered by any regulatory regime.

As you are aware, efforts are now under way to devise a more comprehensive regulatory regime under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), with the a fast-approaching deadline for an agreement in December 2009. In this context, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) is also working to develop an international regime to control emissions from maritime transport. Your deliberations at this expert meeting make a key contribution to this effort by advancing the relevant debate. A deal on maritime transport should form an integral part of the UNFCCC process. The challenge is great, time is short and action is urgently required.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

A second important challenge you may consider in your deliberations relates to the impact of climate change on the maritime transport sector itself. Undoubtedly, the direct effects will include impacts on port and coastal infrastructure, operations and maintenance. In addition, the effects of climate change on trade, investment, demographics, agricultural production, energy demand, or fishing activity may bring changes in demand for maritime transport services.

A better understanding of the potential impacts is necessary to devise coping strategies. This is particularly relevant for the most vulnerable countries such as SIDS and LDCs, which are not only highly exposed and vulnerable to the various climatic factors but are also least able to adapt. A "climate proofing" approach in maritime transport, including in relation to ports and hinterland connections, is essential to avoid service disruption and marginalization of the most vulnerable in global transport and trading networks.

For many developing countries there is an urgent need for strategies to help them cope with climate change effects. Adaptation is crucial. Identifying adaptation needs and the requisite funding is not a straightforward exercise. There is still a lot of uncertainty with regard to the costs of climate adaptation for maritime transport, particularly in developing countries. A further unresolved issue is how funding should be generated and delivered. I am confident that this meeting may be able to help identify potential solutions.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Your deliberations on the interface between maritime transport and climate change are very timely. Even if most policy-makers are now more concerned with addressing the global financial crisis that is threatening to grind the world economy to a halt, it is increasingly recognized that addressing the global economic crisis need not be in contradiction with climate change action. On the contrary, measures to address climate change are the very measures that can help the global economy rebound.

The growing global market for green technology holds significant potential for future growth, employment and income generation. Indeed, stimulus packages for economic recovery have the potential to support green growth and green investments. The global economic slowdown should therefore not distract from efforts to mitigate climate change.

National initiatives announced or already being implemented to spur a "green new deal" include those in the United Kingdom and the United States, where the new administration has already revealed an ambitious plan for energy and climate policies as part of the solution to the economic slowdown.

The "Global Green New Deal" initiative, which was recently launched by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) together with other UN organizations, is another promising step in this direction. The overall role of this initiative is to revive the international economy and foster a new global economic development that is environmentally sustainable and supportive of the achievement of the MDG Goals.

UNCTAD is currently assessing how it can best contribute to this initiative. Issues and areas identified for potential action by UNCTAD include greening transport, reducing carbon depending and enhancing material and resource efficiency.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I invite you to give thoughtful consideration to the various perspectives that may be presented over the course of the next few days, so as to gain a clearer understanding of actions we need to take.

The issues to be discussed at this meeting are at the heart of the debate on maritime transport and the climate change challenge. The deadline for a comprehensive deal on climate change at the 15th Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in Copenhagen is now less than 10 months away. As stressed in last month´s ministerial declaration on Global Environment and Energy in Transport, reducing or limiting greenhouse gas emissions in maritime transport requires that discussions at the IMO be expedited and its work be supported. Discussions at this Expert Meeting could help, inter alia, obtain a clearer understanding of the types of approaches and proposals that may have prospects of achieving consensus and, ultimately, be successfully adopted and implemented.

UNCTAD, as the focal point within the UN system for trade and development issues, and with its longstanding expertise in maritime transport and trade logistics, has a role to play in supporting the ongoing work under the auspices of the IMO and UNFCCC . To this end, UNCTAD is delighted to host this Expert Meeting, and it is to be hoped that as part of the outcomes of this meeting, experts will help identify ways in which UNCTAD can be of assistance in the future.

Without further ado, Mr. Chairman, I would now like to hand the floor to experts to commence their deliberations, which I hope will be open and fruitful. I look forward to reviewing the meeting´s conclusions and actionable outcomes.


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