Emerging ports could be hardest hit by climate change - Unctad

Transformation is needed if the world trade system is to cope with the projected impacts of climate change.

“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 chief of policy and legislation, Regina Asariotis.

This was a fact all actors in the ocean economy had to face as it had a bearing on the trade and sustainable development prospects of all countries, but particularly developing nations, she said, pointing out that 60% of goods loaded and 63% of goods were unloaded in developing countries.

According to Asariotis, maritime transport impacts the environment through pollution and CO2 emissions but rising sea levels and extreme weather – such as storms, record temperatures, heatwaves, droughts and devastating rain – will also affect maritime transport and infrastructure in major ways.

“This is anticipated as early as 2030, when the 1.5 degrees Celsius global warming point is likely to be reached,” she said, commenting that the potential for damage, delay and disruption across closely-linked global supply chains meant addressing climate change’s impact on key transport infrastructure was of strategic economic importance.

“The impacts may be severe, and given what is at stake, we have no time to lose. Currently there is a disconnect between the evidence from the scientific community and the pace of policy change made by governments,” highlighted Asariotis.

She expressed concern that in maritime transport the international debate and policy action regarding climate change focused mainly on mitigation, or the reduction and control of greenhouse gas emissions.

While this is important, particularly in the long term, Asariotis added, impacts of climate variability and change were happening already.

“What is needed are effective adaptation measures and policies, implemented now to manage the direct and indirect impacts on maritime transport infrastructure and services.

“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. Understanding the impacts and developing effective adaptation measures is critical,” she said.

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