Ports in the frontline of projected climate change impacts

Thu 13 Dec 2018
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

climate change port

Regina Asariotis, the Chief of Policy and Legislation at UNCTAD, told the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) in Katowice, Poland, that ports and coastal infrastructure are at the front line of the projected threats of climate change.

Rising tides and increasingly volatile weather trends leave ports susceptible to damage, which has significant supply chain implications. The US National Climate Assessment in November 2018 warned that ports could see tides rise by one to four feet by 2100.

Asariotis made the point that the effects of climate change are already having an effect and that industry should not rely on regulation to force it to prepare and adapt its practices.

The summit came on the back of a recent report by the International Energy Agency showing that advanced economies have increased their carbon emissions in 2018, following five preceding years of declining emissions. This coincides with continued concern that the ambitions of the Paris Agreement on climate change will not be realised due to the USA’s withdrawal in 2017.

IMO aims to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2050

The shipping industry was not included in the Paris Agreement though the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) is committed to halving the industry’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

IMO has not indicated many clear steps on how this will be achieved and currently has no restrictions around carbon emissaries. It does, however, require all ocean carriers to cut their sulphur emissions by 2020.  

A.P. Moller – Maersk recently pledged to attempt carbon neutrality by 2050 though it also stated that new vessel technology would need to be developed before this could be realistically achieved.

Industry must act quickly

UNCTAD nonetheless urged industry to act quickly. Asariotis said:

"The hardest hit areas, coastlines, will affect us all since the lion’s share of trade itself is managed through international shipping and ports.

“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.

“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.”

Further reading:

UNCTAD: Ports Need to Be Climate Change Proofed Urgently - World Maritime News

Ports, global trade on the front lines of climate change - Supply Chain Dive