Climate Change and Maritime Transport

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 transport policy and legislation 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.

Recent work includes a United Nations Development Account funded project on "Climate change impacts on coastal transport infrastructure in the Caribbean: enhancing the adaptive capacity of Small Island Developing States (SIDS)"  which was completed in 2017, with high quality substantive findings and outputs, including state-of-the art flood maps, and innovative methodological approaches that have been validated by scientific peer review. Key project outcomes include assessment of potential vulnerabilities to climate variability and change of two Caribbean SIDS, focusing on potential operational disruptions and marine inundation risk to coastal international airports and seaports of Jamaica and Saint Lucia, under different climate scenarios; as well as a transferable methodology to assist in adaptation planning. Some of the main substantive findings and technical details of the methodology developed under the project are presented and discussed in a scientific paper (Monioudi et.al, Reg Environ Change (2018) 18: 2211) and have informed the recent IPCC assessment of ‘Impacts of 1.5 ºC global warming on natural and human systems’, highlighting the risks of marine inundation for SIDS’ critical transportation infrastructure.

Full information and documentation is available on the project website SIDSport-ClimateAdapt.unctad.org. For an overview, see the project leaflet.

Earlier research and consensus building work includes the following: 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 was 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 whose mandate was extended in 2015, following publication of a substantive report in 2014.

 

 News

 
SDG 13
10 May 2019Why the transport sector needs to adapt to climate change
Blog
25 April 2019The urgency of adapting transport infrastructure to climate change
Goal 9
25 April 2019Urgent need for climate adaptation in transport, say experts
COP 24
07 December 2018Risk to trade if ports not climate change proofed
SDG 13
20 November 2018Q&A: Shipping and the environment
UNCTAD
16 November 2018Experts seek sustainability solutions to freight transport
United Nations
17 October 2018Economic challenges lie ahead as climate change wreaks havoc
Ship
03 October 2018Trade war threatens outlook for global shipping, warns new report
Blog
31 August 20182018 demonstrates extreme weather's impact on development
Goal 13
31 August 2018New website on climate change adaptation for coastal transport
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 Studies and Reports

 
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 Review of Maritime Transport

 
Regulatory developments related to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping and other environmental issues, Review of Maritime Transport 2018, Chapter 5, Legal Issues and Regulatory Developments, 93-95
Regulatory developments relating to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping and other environmental issues, Review of Maritime Transport 2017, Chapter 5, Legal Issues and Regulatory Developments, 89-91
Regulatory developments relating to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping and other environmental issues, Review of Maritime Transport 2016, Chapter 5, Legal Issues and Regulatory Developments, 82-86
Regulatory developments relating to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping and other environmental issues, Review of Maritime Transport 2015, Chapter 5, Legal Issues and Regulatory Developments, 83-85
Climate change impacts, adaptation and resilience-building, Review of Maritime Transport 2015, Chapter 1, Developments in International Seaborne Trade, 24-25
Financing sustainable and resilient maritime transport, Review of Maritime Transport 2015, Chapter 1, Developments in International Seaborne Trade, 25-26
Regulatory developments relating to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping and other environmental issues, Review of Maritime Transport 2014, Chapter 5, Legal Issues and Regulatory Developments, 80-81
General trends in seaborne trade, Review of Maritime Transport 2014, Chapter 1, Developments in International Seaborne Trade, 4-8
Regulatory developments relating to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping and other environmental issues, Review of Maritime Transport 2013, Chapter 5, Legal Issues and Regulatory Developments, 105-110
Selected emerging trends affecting international shipping, Review of Maritime Transport 2013, Chapter 1, Developments in International Seaborne Trade, 25-28
Transport and the climate change challenge, Review of Maritime Transport 2012, Chapter 1, Developments in International Seaborne Trade, 22-25
Regulatory developments relating to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping and other environmental issues, Review of Maritime Transport 2012, Chapter 5, Legal Issues and Regulatory Developments, 96-105
Cutting carbon emissions from international shipping and adapting to climate change impacts, Review of Maritime Transport 2011, Chapter 1, Developments in International Seaborne Trade, 27-28
Regulatory developments relating to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping, Review of Maritime Transport 2011, Chapter 5, Legal Issues and Regulatory Developments, 113-119
Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping, Review of Maritime Transport 2010, Chapter 6, Legal Issues and Regulatory Developments, 118-123
Maritime transport and the climate change challenge, Review of Maritime Transport 2009, Chapter 1, Developments in International Seaborne Trade, 26-32
Legal instruments and other developments relating to the environment, Review of Maritime Transport 2009, Chapter 6, Legal Issues and Regulatory Developments, 144-147
Rising oil prices, maritime transport costs and geography of trade, Review of Maritime Transport 2008, Chapter 1, Developments in International Seaborne Trade, 25-29
Legal instruments and other developments relating to the environment, Review of Maritime Transport 2008, Chapter 6, Legal Issues and Regulatory Developments, 118-120
 

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